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The Woman in Black at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 4th Oct 2016 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

You would think that, after seeing The Woman in Black four times (three times when I was working for a newspaper and once when I took a friend to London for a birthday treat) I’d sit nonchanlantly through my latest visit, laughing at the reactions of the other audience members.

But such is the magic of this show that it still surprises me and the delicious tingling down my spine went all the way to my feet.

First timers do, of course, react differently, especially young audiences who have flocked to see Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s story since it was made into a film in 2012 (which, I have to say, wasn’t anywhere as good as the stage version). It’s good to see a theatre full of youngsters, and they are ideal fodder for such a tale. Their gasps and screams must be wonderful feedback for the performers on stage.

For those who have been living on the moon and don’t know the story, so he ‘can sleep at night’, retired solicitor Arthur Kipps hires an actor to help him tell the terrible story of a ghost who haunts Eel Marsh House, which stands alone at the end of NIne Lives Causeway in a remote part of Britain. When the owner dies, Kipps, then a young man, is sent to the house to sort out her affairs, and what follows is a tale of terror and tragedy.

With the help of Kipps, The Actor tells his story, but this turns out to have several layers, with the action flitting from story to stage in an instant, but at times becoming alarmingly entwined.

It is extraordinary that two men acting out a ghost story in ‘an empty theatre’ with just a suggestion of a set can hold the imagination of theatregoers for a whole evening, let alone for a 27-year run in London’s West End. And even more extraordinary is the fact that, from the outset, it has been directed by the same man. But Robin Herford keeps it fresh and helps it grow by changing the cast every nine months.

With his latest team he certainly has another winner.

Both David Acton and Matthew Spencer are expressive actors, making it easy for their audiences to imagine the various locations and even a dog. Acton is especially versatile as Kipps, growing from a timid, frightened old man to a passionate performer who helps to act out his story by playing a multitude of characters.

Since I first saw the play it has become even more horrifying. Thanks to the sound team’s effects you can’t get away from blood curdling screams - and more, but there are moments of extreme quiet as the tension builds, and, thankfully, some lighter moments so the audience can relax - but not for long! Of course, the lighting and Michael Holt’s special effects all add to what is a rollercoaster of an evening - and that’s without The Woman in Black!

 

The Woman in Black is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Oct 8

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

 

It then tours:

Oct 10-15: Royal Derngate, Northampton

Oct 18-22:Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

Oct 24-29: West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Nov 1-5: Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Nov 7-12: Everyman & Playhouse, Liverpool

Nov 14-19: Northcott Theatre, Exeter

Nov 21-26: Theatre Royal, Bath

Nov 29-Dec 3: Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Jan 9-14: Palace Theatre, Westcliff-on-Sea

Jan 17-21: King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Jan 23-28: Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Jan 30-Feb 4: Curve, Leicester

Feb 6-11: Courtyard, Hereford

Feb 13-18: His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

Feb 20-25: Theatre Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

Feb 27-Mar 4: Princess Theatre, Torquay

Mar 6-11: Grand Opera House, Belfast

Mar 13-18: Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

Mar 20-25: The Lowry, Salford

Mar 27-Apr 1: New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

Apr 3-8: Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Apr 10-15: New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Apr 17-22: Theatre Royal, Norwich

Apr 24-29: Theatre Royal, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

May 1-6: Eden Court Theatre, Inverness

May 8-13: Cast, Doncaster

May 22-27: Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

June 5-10: New Theatre, Cardiff

 

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