The Woman in Black has been running at the Fortune Theatre in Covent Garden for longer than my lifespan and I have always avoided it purely because I am easily scared. I’ve read the novel by Susan Hill and I’ve seen the recent film adaptation too (which I found so scary that I ran out of the cinema at the climax, no joke) so I suppose going to see the play was natural progression and when I finally plucked up the courage and dragged my bum down there to go and see it, I found myself enjoying it much more than I thought I would.
In comparison to the book and the film, the show is very different. The play focuses around a young man who is asked by an older man to help him tell his story to his family, and in the end, we see the young man act the old man’s story out for us which tells the tale of The Woman In Black. The scary bits don’t actually start until about 40 minutes into the show because a lot of time is spent setting up the story and building tension with sudden blackouts and eerie silence, which was obviously fantastic for my already chilled nerves...!
The entrance of The Woman in Black is perhaps the scariest part of the show (especially if you sit in the stalls). We were sat right on the aisle and were terrified when she walked straight past us down the aisle and up onto the stage, and were even more scared at the strange double sightings of her and her genuinely terrifying face. She crops up on numerous occasions throughout the show, and even though she is an actress who makes one think “well I can see her in the shadows...”, it is weirdly even more terrifying to know that she is actually a genuine woman with a very scary looking face stood right there in front of you.
The one thing I truly loved about this show though was the fact that they clearly knew people would be genuinely terrified, so humour is diced in in-between scarier bits to calm your nerves slightly which I thought worked fantastically well. Not only was the older man hilarious with some of the things he came out with at the beginning of the show, but the younger man says some rather funny things during the actual story as well which made the show a well-rounded and enjoyable piece of theatre.
I fear that saying much more will ruin the play for those of you who haven’t seen it so I’ll leave it down to you to catch this fantastic play in its 25th year in London’s West End, but you should know that the play is as pleasing and enjoyable as you probably think it will be: The Woman In Black is a fantastic night at the theatre, with just enough fear for me to handle - fabulous!
By Shaun Nolan
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