Fortune Theatre, London – until 2 April 2022
Guest reviewer: Celia Armand Smith
If I know anything, it’s don’t go into the old house cut off by fog, and don’t go through a locked door, and don’t mess with ghosts. But here we are.
The Woman in Black is the theatrical retelling of a traumatic event in Arthur Kipps’ past. The action is played out over two hours and takes place in the theatre. An actor played by Max Hutchinson is there to help Mr Kipps with storytelling and hopefully banish the demons that have haunted him for so long. At this point, the audience is lulled into a false sense of security. We are laughing along as Arthur Kipps played by Terence Wilton fumbles his lines and refuses to be a performer. However, we are no fools and we know why we are here, so the laughter is a little on the nervous side. The person next to me leaned over and said ”sorry in advance, I’m a screamer”.
The first half is the actor coaxing Mr Kipps out of his shell, and taking on the part of the young Kipps while old Arthur is all the other supporting parts. As the play gets going, Arthur becomes more comfortable with this role and the plot starts to truly emerge.
A ghost story set in a big house on a peninsula that is cut off by fog and tides is where the main action takes place. There are jump scares and terror as the story of what happened unfolds, the audience on edge and scaring each other with screams. The use of a simple set, a few props, some clever lighting, and a fantastic bank of sound effects is at the heart of Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s gothic novel.
Hutchinson and Terence Wilton both gave stellar performances and morphed effortlessly between characters utilising the simple props and costumes on stage. While they may have been the only cast members listed, but Spider the dog, the horses, and of course the woman also deserve an honourable mention for their “presence” on stage.
At the end and after we were emotionally torn in two by the final twist, the producer came on to the stage to make a toast to the return of theatre and to celebrate all the individuals involved in making stage productions. This production is a great reminder of why theatre and the arts are so important and how they can take you to another place entirely
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