Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Woman in Black - Theatre Review

Thanks to the mobile phone company O2, I managed to get hold of a two-for-one offer on theatre tickets. I've been wanting to see 'The Woman in Black' for a very long time, so now was the perfect opportunity. I booked a week in advance and was delighted to get second row seats. However, on arriving at the small, cramped Fortune Theatre in London's West End, my partner (his first time at the theatre!) and I discovered that perhaps they were not the best of seats. The stage was three feet above us.

But as soon as the show started, we forgot about our slightly craning necks and was swept away by the story. An old man arrives and begins to dryly narrate from a manuscript. A young theatre producer/actor interrupts him and teaches him how to make his story come alive in the Victorian theatre. The story that unravels is a very dark and horrifying ghost story, one that the old man thinks he only relives in his nightmares...

I don't want to give too much away. My older sister had seen the play years ago and warned me that it was scary. I find ghost stories the scariest kind of narrative, so I was a little nervous. The first half did not scare me much at all. Even when The Woman in Black swished past my aisle seat, I didn't jump - I saw her much more as an actor than a ghost.

However, after the interval the fear was turned up more than a notch. With an impeccable sense of timing, lighting, sound, and brilliant acting, the whole audience was screaming and giggling to relieve the fear. I squeezed my partner's hand pretty tightly in some parts, and I admit I screamed at one point.

The theatre was the perfect place to tell this story. It was part way between reading a book and watching a film: the audience's imagination had to be engaged, to imagine Victorian streets and galloping horses, but many of the visuals were there, the sounds were there, the people were there in the flesh. The ghost could have reached out and grabbed you, if she wanted to...

The story was chilling, and reminded me a little of Henry James's 'The Turn of the Screw'. The acting was brilliant. I highly recommend seeing 'The Woman in Black', but be prepared for a sleepless night or two after the experience...


  1. I saw this play a few years back and still regard it as one of the most memorable productions I've seen on stage. So I'll see your recommendation and raise you another...

    Reminds me, I have the novel lying around somewhere, still not read. Better get on that.

  2. I think I will be to scared to read the book!

  3. Yeah, I saw this about a thousand years ago. Great atmosphere and some nice, spooky effects as well. I don't see many productions at the theatre, but it was definitely a good 'un.


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