Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s best-selling novel has been chilling audiences in the West End for over twenty five years and this week, The Woman in Black, returns to The Lowry as part of its UK tour.
Telling the story of lawyer Arthur Kipps, (Malcolm James) whose life has been plagued by a curse he believes has been cast over him by the terrifying ghost of the ‘Woman in Black’. Kipps recruits young actor (Matt Connor) to help him tell his story in the hope it will exorcise the fear that has governed his entire life. The play begins innocently enough; we are transported back in time when Kipps was a young solicitor sent to the North-East coast to sort the financial affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow, owner and sole inhabitant of the eerie and mysterious Eel Marsh House. As we delve into the depths of Kipp’s memories we get the uncomfortable feeling that something awful is about to happen and so the torment begins.
Chilling a live audience without the blockbusting budget and special effects of the 2012 movie version which became the highest grossing British horror film in the last 20 years is no mean feat but actors Malcolm James and Matt Connor manage to do just that. We are treated to some fine acting, and plenty of ghoulish goings-on that have the audience shrieking and nervously giggling with relief in equal measure. Both actors put on a fine performance and keep us engaged and eager to find out more about the mysterious goings on.
Director Robin Herford builds the tension by intermingling light-hearted witty moments with tense, chilling scenes which have the audience anxiously gripping their seats. Michael Holt’s set is minimalist but very effective and allows for a feeling of isolation and abandonment. With atmospheric lighting from Kevin Sleep and just the right amount of blood curdling screams and slamming doors from sound designer Gareth Owen the spooky atmosphere is set.
This play within a play is very clever, the suspense and tension increase at just the right pace allowing the opportunity for our own imaginations to raise the scare factor that little touch more. Great fun with impressive performances it’s clear this Woman in Black with continue her hauntings for many years to come.
Showing at The Lowry, Tuesday 28th April – Saturday 2nd May