Review: The Woman In Black. Nottingham Theatre Royal. (touring)

four star

Quite often theatrical pieces require less of our imaginations and more of our attention and sometimes participation. We are given the play ‘on a plate’ as it were. With The Woman In Black the set that we immediately see is some few props and a grey, slightly torn backdrop with a door at the side. But not everything is as we think we see it and our imaginations are engaged in some masterly story-telling and several jump out of your seats moments! The best of these are, of course, when one least expects them.

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

The Woman In Black is a spirited tour de force of a ghost story brought to the stage by The Actor (Matthew Spencer) and Arthur Kipps (David Acton). The first fifteen minutes are very funny as The Actor tries to encourage a reticent Arthur Kipps to tell his tale of previous haunting and the outcome to the audience. Spencer is immediately engrossing as he eggs Acton on to be more of an actor type and more declamatory. The story is a master class in lighting (Kevin Sleep) and sound (Gareth Owen) to create many moods and is directed by Robin Herford. Herford has been the director of The Woman In Black for twenty-seven productions world-wide and whilst keeping true to Stephen Mallatratt’s script allows any change in actors to make the roles their own not just be a carbon copy of productions gone by. The production requires the actors to take on multiple roles and this aspect is a major part of the enjoyment.

As the story unfolds we are transported to a scary old mansion cut off by the tides on the marshes where our nerves are jangled by the ghostly goings on – the tension only relieved by our shrieks and nervous laughter. Both actors put in terrific performances and as the story develops you too will start to believe in and fear The Woman In Black. The play has been running worldwide since its first outing in Scarborough 1987 and many audience members return again and again to enjoy its horror and frights and the imaginary antics of Spider the dog. Not to mention The Woman In Black “Aaaaaaaaaargh!”

Reviewer: Phil Lowe

Runs at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sat 25th Feb 2017

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