Review The Woman in Black by Eloise Stingemore

 

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Following its record-breaking run in the West End, The Woman in Black returns to the New Theatre, Cardiff. It has been seen over 7 million theatregoers worldwide and has been described by the Daily Telegraph as “The most brilliantly effective spine-chiller you will ever encounter”.

Stephen Mallatratt’s ingenious stage adaptation, directed by Robin Herford, brings Susan Hill’s acclaimed ghost story to life. Of a lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of a Woman in Black. He engages a sceptical young actor to help him tell his terrifying story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. It all begins innocently enough, but then, as they reach further into his darkest memories, they find themselves caught up in a world of eerie marshes and moaning winds. The borders between make believe and reality begins to blur and the flesh begins to creep.

The play utilised minimal props instead of adopting large and intricate sets, it relies solely on lighting and sound to chill and horrify its audience. However, it is was the subtle changing of lights within the theatre itself and on stage to a rustic orange in order to emulate the time period in which the story is set, and the equipment they would have owned. That not only helped the play within a play format of the show truly shine, but as Matthew Spencer character The Actor explains to Mr Kipps played by David Action Fox, one needs only to use the audience’s imagination to provide the settings. The production saw me scan the nearby aisle at regular intervals – just in case the ghostly figure made a surprise appearance. Full marks must be given to Michael Holt’s set design the lighting and sound designs of Kevin Sleep and Gareth Owen respectively.

As for the two men (Action and Spencer) in the play who spend much of the first half getting to know one another, slip in and out of character with ease, especially when The Actor descends into a sense of despair of drawing a good performance from Kipps. Who initially rails against the idea of a ‘performance’ that might be entertaining – his story is far too serious for that, yet the comedic dialogue got the audience descending into fits of laughter. Whereas the shift in mood after the interval, as Kipps’ story advances, sees The Actor descends on a journey of fear and uncertainty, with each new experience leaving him feeling ever more nervous and threatened. Eliciting shrieks and nervous laughter from the audience who jump and squirm in their seats as the play reaches its inevitable conclusion.

It is easy to why The Woman in Black is often referred to as a gripping theatrical exploration of terror. Combing the horror of a traditional ghost story and the heart-breaking subjects of loss and love using minimal tricky leaving in its wake freighting results. It is a must-see play, as long as your brave enough to come face-to-face with The Women in Black.

 The Women in Black plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from Tuesday June 6 – Saturday June 1 at 7.30pm plus Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm. For further details about the show or to book tickets visit http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what%27s-on/the-woman-in-black/ or call the Box Office on 02920878889.

 

 

 

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