Our reader Karl was lucky enough to get The Woman in Black tickets, at the Fortune Theatre last week. Here’s what he thought about it!
The publicity boasts that over 7 million people have paid to see The Woman in Black: this show is clearly a success. But it is heartening to see a popular, long-running production and to find it so fresh.
‘toys with the notions of illusion and performance’
Horror is a genre heavily dependent on manipulating the gaze. Theatre, a fixed-perspective spectacle before a static audience, might not seem like its natural home. Stephen Mallatratt’s smart adaptation of the original Susan Hill novel succeeds by acknowledging and embracing the limits of the medium. It toys with exactly the notions of illusion and performance that theatre can deal with.
‘Barriers between identities begin to break down as the Actor becomes Mr Kipps, and Mr Kipps becomes everyone else’
Mr Kipps comes to a haunted mansion on an island with a terrifying history. Weird things start to happen to Mr Kipps, alone in the spooky house. The simple ghost story becomes more complex and satisfying with the meta-theatre that surrounds it. The young Actor (Adam Best) enlivens the manuscript bought to him by Mr Kipps (Ken Drury), and the two of them begin to act it out together. Barriers between identities begin to break down as the Actor becomes Mr Kipps, and Mr Kipps becomes everyone else.
‘deeply accomplished piece of entertainment’
The meta-theatre never overwhelms this deeply accomplished piece of entertainment. At first the design and dressing seems minimal; a single wicker chest serves as a carriage, a desk, a bed. More elaborate sets are half-glimpsed through gauze, suggested into being with artful lighting as the illusion grows to swallow the framing device. Some scenes include excellent film noir-esque constructions in the shadows.
‘excellent chemistry between Best and Dury’
Whilst certainly the play has scares (mostly of the sudden-jump variety), there is a light comic touch, particularly in the opening scenes. This is thanks to the excellent chemistry between Best and Drury, and Drury’s skilled performance of an unskilled performer. This comedy never failed to delight the audience. The frights come so much more successfully because the audience have been endeared to the characters through a little humour.
The Woman in Black is a smart, solid, unpretentious and thoroughly enjoyable piece of theatre. What is all the fuss about? Just see for yourself.
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