As I sat down in my seat to watch The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre, I was surrounded by the murmur and nervousness of what was to be a very jumpy audience, settling into their seats. As anticipated, the usual suspects were there. There was the usual person moaning that these were not the seats they’d booked, and another group worried that they would be way too scared, sitting so close to the front.
Once in my seat, I was able to sit back and examine the beautiful Grade II-listed theatre, which has been home to The Woman in Black since 1989. This theatre, smaller than most, seating only 432 people, works perfectly for this play and creates the illusion that everyone in the auditorium is part of the action on stage.
The Actor, played by Adam Best, and Arthur Kipps, played by Ken Drury, demonstrated their versatility and stamina as actors portraying a number of different characters, each with their very unique character traits and diverse accents. The comic timing and the interaction between the two actors were superb and it was clear to see that the pair had great trust in one another, delivering a totally believable performance and keeping the audience on the edge of their seats with their fantastic storytelling skills.
Each character travelled on an emotional rollercoaster and to maintain that intensity in every performance is a huge task. I am delighted to say both actors pulled off this feat with great effect and their vast experience was evident for all to see. Both actors’ roles were very physical and the characters were steadfastly maintained, even when running around the theatre and scaling the huge raked stage. The passion and the energy displayed by both actors richly deserved the huge applause it received at the end.
It was great to see a limited set and only essential props and costumes used, making it more about the well-written story and superb acting skills rather than relying on the spectacle of a high budget set. Hats, coats and glasses were used to quickly switch between characters, each one as complex and convincing as the last. Not enough shows rely on the imagination of the audience, but this show definitely does. Everyone in the audience absolutely believed Spider the dog was on stage and we all felt for her when she was in trouble.
If you have not taken the opportunity to see this show and maybe thought “oh I’ll just watch the film instead”, stop! The stage production portrays the characters and story in far more depth and if you are looking for the fear factor, I felt it was far scarier when it is actually happening all around you. Be warned! Throughout the show you will hear noises, be engulfed in smoke and begin to think you have actually seen the woman in black everywhere you glance.
This show is expertly presented in a unique way, which totally absorbed the audience and created a level of suspense which intensified as the show progressed. Unsurprisingly, the audience screamed and I observed many watching through their hands at times.
To conclude, the mixture of horror and comedy works perfectly. You will laugh, you will be scared and you may even leave the theatre with a haunting rocking sound still in your ears!!
For a fantastic night out – go and see this play.
The Woman In Black Review by David Brewis who you can follow on Twitter at @davidbrewis
Saturday 11th August 2012