Home » Reviews » Drama » The Woman in Black, Fortune Theatre – Review
Credit: Tristram Kenton
Credit: Tristram Kenton

The Woman in Black, Fortune Theatre – Review

Pros: A perfect venue dripping with atmosphere and an eerie sense of expectation.

Cons: Hysterically shrieking members of the audience breaking the tension.

Pros: A perfect venue dripping with atmosphere and an eerie sense of expectation. Cons: Hysterically shrieking members of the audience breaking the tension. Plays in the West End are often short lived as they can rarely depend on customers returning to the same show.  The ultimate exception is of course Agatha Christie’s  Mousetrap, which has been running continuously in London since 1952.  A distant but creditable second is The Woman in Black, a mere stripling of only 25 years standing. Despite its many incarnations in book, on film and TV, the most enduring version of the story is found…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A truly gripping drama in the classic theatrical tradition.

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Plays in the West End are often short lived as they can rarely depend on customers returning to the same show.  The ultimate exception is of course Agatha Christie’s  Mousetrap, which has been running continuously in London since 1952.  A distant but creditable second is The Woman in Black, a mere stripling of only 25 years standing. Despite its many incarnations in book, on film and TV, the most enduring version of the story is found on stage where it can play with the senses of a live audience.  With a new cast in place at London’s Fortune Theatre, this was the ideal opportunity to reacquaint myself with the most challenging of ghost stories.

A neat two hander, the story begins with Arthur Kipps, played by Stuart Fox, rehearsing a performance of the haunting of Eel Marsh House with the Actor, played by Joseph Chance. The performance is for the benefit of family and friends, but he begins to relive horrific experiences from several years in the past when, as a junior solicitor, he attended the funeral of reclusive widow Alice Drablow, who lived alone in the desolate Eel March House. At the funeral, he sees a woman dressed in black with a pale face and dark eyes. Even more spookily, while sorting through Mrs Drablow’s papers at Eel Marsh House, he experiences a terrifying sequence of unexplained noises and chilling events.

So who exactly was the woman in black and why is Kipps still haunted by these memories so many years later?  A fantastically entertaining two hour performance gradually reveals all, using the simplest of visual enhancements and most powerful storytelling; it had everyone jumping out of their seats.  Some smart direction uses tricks perfected by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Things we assume are happening are not necessarily in view, so fear builds in the imagination of the audience….and we all know our imagination knows no bounds. Dry ice, a standard prop for all ghost stories is thankfully kept to a minimum, and spectacularly good sound effects guarantee some spine-tingling moments. Stuart Fox and Joseph Chance are both excellent in their respective roles and play off each other perfectly as the story reaches a crescendo.

My only gripe was the behaviour of some audience members during the show.  I naturally expected the odd scream and collective intake of breath, but a group of excitable drama students were intent on wailing like banshees at every possible opportunity.  Ok guys you want to act, but you were viewers not players on this occasion. React to what you see but don’t over react!

Author: Susan Hill
Adapted by: Stephen Mallatratt
Director: Robin Herford
Box Office: 0844 871 7626
Booking Link: http://thewomaninblack.com/ticket-info
Booking until: September 2017

About Brian Penn

Brian Penn
Civil Servant. Brian flirted with drama at school but artistic differences forced a painful separation. At least he knows what his motivation is. Now occupying a safe position in the audience he enjoys all kinds of theatre. He was bitten by the theatrical bug after watching a production of Tommy in his teens. Other passions include films, TV and classic rhythm and blues. He also finds time for quizzes, football and squash. A keen sports fan, his enthusiasm crashes to a halt whenever anyone mentions golf. A musical based on the life of Tiger Woods could be his greatest challenge.