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Review: How Scary Could Woman In Black Possibly Be?

Everyone knows Woman In Black is scary right? But how scary can a show with such a small set and cast really be for the modern audience?

Now arguably one of the west ends most notorious villains, the ghastly Woman In Black has been terrifying theatre goers for 25 years.  This dark and tense thriller, uses a minimalistic set and a cast of just two highly skilled actors to prove that you don’t need colossal stages and vast spectacle to entrance and terrorise. 

We all know the woman in black will appear to make us scream.  We all know the rocking chair will move on its own.  We all know staying alone, in the empty house of a recently deceased recluse, is a bad idea! Still sinister stage lighting, piercing torch beams and periods of complete black out ensure the audience remain suitably unsettled. The chillingly effective visual, of a rocking chair, unexplainably in motion in an abandoned nursery, generates an audible groan of dismay from the audience. From the stalls seats fog machines, quite accurately I would imagine, recreate the eerie sensation of being engulfed in the suffocating blindness of a sea mist.  The desperate screams of a vicious apparition echo all around and keep you on a knife’s edge throughout the play.    Atmospheric, foreboding, loud and blood-curdling, this is not a show for the faint of heart.

Nowadays seeing an actor bend to pet an invisible dog is nearly a laughable notion. Why not just hire an actual dog? Yet this production wilfully relies on its audience to imagine just that as well as a desolate marsh land, treacherous causeway and isolated mansion, with only the mere hint of it shown on stage.  As a play within a play, Arthur is instructed in the nuances of performance alongside the audience.  We are taught that the assumption of a new persona, through change of voice or demeanour, possibly accompanied by the changing of a coat, indicates a changing of character.  With Stephen Mallatratt’s words to guide them and The Actor’s enthusiastic instruction in imagination, audience members can fully accept this and become immersed in Kipps’ narrative.

As Arthur Kipps is informed by his family in the opening of the play; ‘Everyone knows at least one ghost story.’ A notion that’s proving true in London, thanks to the popularity of his spine tingly chilling and tragic tale. 

A classic ghost story praying on common childhood fears and superstitions, Woman In Black will haunt you long after your visit. 

Sheila White 22/01/2015

Woman In Black is booking until July 2015. Now onwards, book your Woman In Black tickets and save £15 on the best available seats!
(Valid Tuesday to Friday and Saturday Matinee for shows.)

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