Having read Susan Hill’s book and watched the Daniel Radcliffe film adaptation, it is certainly about time that I saw the stage version at the Fortune Theatre.
But, despite knowing the story from reading the book that didn’t mean that I was any better prepared for the jumps and scares that come throughout when the audience is least expecting it.
The production based on Hill’s book and directed by Robin Herford tells the story of the mysterious woman in black and the history surrounding Eel Marsh house that Arthur Kipps is sent to following the death of a reclusive lady who owned the house. While there a number of mysterious things begin to happen as Kipps uncovers the story of the woman in black…
The show has a very simple staging, with very few props – which means that the audience has to use their imagination a lot of the time. This is a very effective technique to use as it means that the audience have to concentrate fully on what is going on and in building up the tension to the climax of the show.
At first, the play seems to take a while to get going and feels a bit repetitive as the actor (Antony Eden) and Arthur Kipps (Julian Forsyth) negotiate the correct way to tell Arthur’s story. However, it does mean that another clever devise is used meaning that Eden becomes the young Kipps and Forsyth plays all the other characters that Kipps encounters in his story.
It is a slow burner that builds up the tension wonderfully for the audience – with full credit going to Stephen Mallatratt’s wonderful adaptation that is wonderfully faithful to the the book. The subtlety of the script,simplicity of the staging and the extremely creepy sound effects all work together perfectly to keep the audience on the edge of their seat throughout.
But it should also be noted that Eden and Forsyth also do a magnificent job of convincing the audience that the story that is unfolding in front of them is actually happening. Forsyth has the more difficult job of portraying a number of different characters – by simply changing his mannerism as well as items of clothing – a brilliant performance.
If the ending feels a bit of an anti-climax, it is still filled with emotional depth that really gives the audience a pause for thought.
Overall, it is a show that really will leave your heart pounding, hands shaking and makes you constantly look over your shoulder to see if the woman in black is close by… I dare you to go and see it!