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The Woman in Black: A reign of terror in the dark

| Theatre | 05/02/2014

The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre
The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre

The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre is a unanimously acclaimed theatre production, and from experiencing it, it’s pretty obvious why. If someone was to tell you, that a two-man on-stage theatre production would have you jumping out of your seat, and transport the audience to a terrifyingly ghostly world, you would not quite believe them, would you? But, The Woman in Black achieves exactly that effect, as it combines live theatre-production, with ominous cinematic effects to achieve a mesmerizingly terrifying theatrical experience.

The Woman in Black is the story of Arthur Kipps seeking the advice of a younger actor on how best to tell his horrifying tale in front of his family and friends. The production contains all the ingredients that would make for a classic ghost story, the ominous deserted mansion, the locals who don’t breathe a word of the horrors they have witnessed, a dark and terrible past, that literally comes back to haunt our actors thirty-years after the terrible events unfolded.

The brilliance of The Woman in Black is its simplicity. Stuart Fox (Arthur Kipps) and Gwynfor Jones (The Actor) are the two protagonists in the story. Fox’s unnerving and yet humorous performance worked perfectly in-sync with Jones’ charismatic portrayal of The Actor. The theatre was the entirety of the set, with characters appearing from the back of the theatre, leaving the audience with the feeling that someone, or something, could very much be about to creep up onto them. The set may not be as lavish as other West End productions, but it’s the simplicity of the production that gets to you the most. The small details, the moving rocking chair in the nursery, to the use of shadows to project the sinister and secluded El Marsh House, all add to the general sense of discomfort, which in this case is a positive. The concept and staging of The Woman in Black, is an ingenious way of telling Susan Hill’s horror novel.

We have already mentioned the acting of Fox and Jones, but to say that these two men carried the show, which is literally true, they did, as they were the only two actors; although, credit should also be given to the lighting and special effects team, who also did a great job. It was the manner in which Fox and Jones were able to effortlessly bring out both the horror of playwright Stephen Mallatratt’s script, and its humour which struck a cord with the audience. Jones was commanding, whilst Fox provided the witty humour, but together they produced one of the best West End shows in London. They sucked the audience into their dark vortex of horror, and ensured that they were kept alert throughout. The spine-chilling atmosphere, the piercing screams, the haunting sets, as well as the perfectly horrifying on-stage performances, makes The Woman in Black one of London’s best ghostly theatre show’s by far. After all, I have yet to attend a theatre production where the audience are genuinely jumping out of their seats, and gasping at the on-stage developments.

The Woman in Black now running in its 23rd year is an old-fashioned theatre production. Its simplicity is its most enduring feature, and will ensure its longevity. There is no need for lavish sets, or a great ensemble cast. Quite simply what is there is enough, and it should not change. If you dare to experience The Woman in Black be prepared for the fright of your life; if you did not believe in ghosts before, you soon will be.

Written by

Sandip Kana

(For more reviews follow @sandipkana)

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