The Woman In Black Tour Review

Crowding into the small, eerie space of the New Theatre Royal, an anxious audience took to their seats, awaiting the horror and psychological torment that was to haunt their evening. Many years ago, I had saw The Woman In Black in London with my school, and hoped that having previously seen it, some of the fear would be removed…this was not the case.

The play tells the story of Arthur Kipps, played by David Acton, an elderly man who writes a manuscript of his previous horrors, in the hope that the psychological torment of his past, and the woman in black, would finally leave him in peace. With the aim of performing to a small audience of friends and family, Arthur seeks help from The Actor, played by Matthew Spencer, to improve his performance, yet the pair then decide that The Actor will play a young Arthur Kipps, whilst Arthur plays supporting roles. In front of your eyes, the pair discuss their plans for their performance, before immersing you deeply into the major plot line itself. Filled with never-ending twists and turns, the play is deeply immersive, and forces you on the edge of your seat, whilst still cowering with fear, over what events will happen next.

With a small cast consisting of just two men, the show’s start was humorous, luring you into a false sense of security and calm before forcing you into the horrific depths of hell for the remainder of the time you are sat there. Both Acton and Spencer did an impeccable job of captivating the audience, and their characterisation, especially Acton’s, when taking on several roles within the show, made you forget that there was just two of them. Both actors completely transformed on stage, changing their accents, facial expressions and body language to the point that they were unrecognisable from the role they had previously played. Their talents were superb and a true art.

In a Brechtian Theatre style, costumes are changed on stage, and simplistic props such as a box is moved and transformed into a bed, a pony and trap, and a train. Techniques like this ensure that the use of imagination is obligatory for the audience, which only makes the play more terrifying and suspenseful. The simplicity of the set is another key element here, as there is nowhere to divert your eyes or attention. With the minimal props, a sheet of gauze to represent the separate floors of the house, as well as a couple of other carefully placed doors and room designs, attention is set on the acting and storyline ahead.

Lighting and sound are two carefully thought through elements, which allow suspense and jump scares throughout. With occasional voice-overs, and well-timed ambient sounds, the story comes to life, and the low lighting makes you paranoid about what is hiding in the shadows. At two different points, the only lighting was that of a torch or a single match, and words cannot even begin to explain the way in which your imagination, and heart, will race within this scene.

Both lighting and sound transform the theatre space into the locations that the characters describe, and even the thought of it sends a chill through my spine. The theatre space as a whole was transformed into a stage, and I shall also warn that the fourth wall is broken throughout, fully submerging the audience into the plot.

For a touring show (and just a show in general), I was blown away. Everything was so perfectly reproduced from the London show, with not a single flaw to pick up on within the acting, lighting, set or sound. The New Theatre Royal space was adapted to perfectly, and lead to an utterly petrifying intense, suspenseful and immersive show. Its title as the most terrifying thing I have ever seen remains, and as the lights came up, I wiped the fear fuelled tear from my eye and made my way home – being sure to leave the lights on that night.

Many are sceptical about how a play about a ghost can be effectively scary, but if you are brave enough to find out (which I would strongly recommend that you do), tickets can be found HERE.

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