The play of The Woman in Black was adapted by Stephen Mallatratt in December 1987 and started off as a low budget production for the new Christmas play in Scarborough. It turned out to be so successful that it arrived in London's West End two years later in January 1989, taking up residence at the London Fortune Theatre on 7th June that same year and is currently the second longest running play in the West End.
Set in the early 1950’s in an empty theatre The Woman in Black is the story of a Solicitor Arthur Kipps played by Malcolm James, who you may have seen in TV productions such as Coronation Street, Heartbeat and The Bill, along with numerous theatrical roles. Kipps has a story he wishes to tell to family and friends so hires an actor played by Matt Connor. Connor has also appeared in Coronation Street and Heartbeat along with theatre credits including, Around the World in 80 Days (at the New Vic), Oh What a Lovely War (at Bolton Octagon).
The show requires the audience to use their imagination and take a fly on the wall view of the process of telling the tale in the empty theatre in which they are sat. It is not a show where you need to have read the novel by Susan Hill wonderfully adapted for stage by Stephen Mallatratt. The direction of Robin Hereford and design of Michael Holt along with mood inducing lighting by Kevin Sleep are faultless. Rod Mead and Gareth Owen provide dramatic sound effects to keep the action moving.
We start the play in the London Office of Kipps who is summonsed to the office of Mr Bentley who instructs him to visit the town of Crythin Gifford to deal with the estate of the late Alice Drablow and Eel Marsh House.
Clever use of a wicker basket allows for changes from setting to setting as the young lawyer travels to Eel Marsh House meeting Samuel Daily - a landlord on route. On arrival in Crythin Gifford Kipps meets up with Mr Jerome and they attend the funeral of Alice, this is where Arthur first sees the Woman in Black. Kipps is then taken by pony and trap to Eel Marsh House by the less than communicative Keckwick and this is where he sees the Woman in Black again.
A haunting night is then had by Arthur and he is found by Samuel Daily who explains the tale of the Drablow family and Jennet Humfrye.
Be prepared for sudden loud sound effects and harmless stage smoke during the performance, and to let your imagination run free for a truly haunting experience.
Reviewer: Joanne Hibbert
Reviewed: 28th April 2015