Theatre Review: The Woman In Black @ Theatre Royal, Nottingham

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Theatre Royal in Nottingham to watch the hit play, “The Woman In Black”. My companions for the evening were my Dad ( who usually likes a good play) and my friends Tracy (who loves horror films) and  Amanda (who definitely doesn’t).  Sadly, my own show kind of took over for the next couple of weeks and so I never got around to finishing my review, but here it is now.

The Woman In Black is a gripping ghost story telling the tale of Arthur Kipps, a solicitior who travels to Eel Marsh House and is confronted by the legend of The Woman In Black.  The play is a spine-tingling exploration of fear and the unknown – certainly not for the faint hearted.

The production is performed by just two actors. The first, Matthew Spencer, plays an actor hired to help Arthur Kips tell his story.  Later in the play, he takes on the role of young Arthur Kipps in the retelling of the tale.  David Acton plays Arthur Kipps (senior) and later takes on the roles of all additional characters in the story.

I actually went to see The Woman In Black a couple of years ago, so the fact that I chose to go and see it for a second time should probably already give you a clue that I really like it.  Part of the reason I felt I had to see this play again was how amazingly talented the two actors have to be in order to pull this off.

When you first take your seats, the stage is set to look like a disused theatre, with dust sheets, props and pieces of costume discarded around.   Over the course of the production, some incredibly subtle but genius set design transports you from city streets, to eerie marshes to the terrifying rooms of Eel Marsh House.

David Acton proves himself an incredibly versatile actor during the play.  His Arthur Kipps is tortured and tormented while also showing hints of humour and vulnerability.  The range of other characters that he plays is phenomenal and he effortlessly creates the world into which Young Arthur is thrown.

Matthew Spencer is equally as impressive as the Young Arthur Kipps.  He performs his scenes with a freshness and raw emotion that makes it hard to believe he has performed this role night after night.  Kipps’ journey from sceptical non-believer  to terrified bystander is harrowing and Spencer’s performance takes you right along with him.

It’s incredibly hard to describe this performance without giving too much away.  Part of the appeal of the show is its mystery.  You don’t know what to expect next.  I could go into detail of the effects and surprises of the show, but that would completely ruin it for you.  Well, it might.  I enjoyed it just as much for the second time but I did already know some of what was coming.

So, is it really as scary as they make out?  It’s described as the most terrifying theatre experience in the world.  I’m not really sure about that, but then I haven’t been to see many scary shows.  If you’ve seen the film with Daniel Radcliffe, then you should be prepared that this is very different.  It’s much more subtle and atmospheric, rather than going for big horror moments, which I actually preferred.

It blows my mind how two men and some visual and audio effects can create such tension in a theatre.  Sadly, this time around the mood was slightly broken by a woman who insisted on shouting “Oh My God!” every time there was the slightest scare.  It was funny at first, but soon got a bit tedious and spoiled the effect somewhat.  Still, clearly she found it VERY scary.  Whether you are freaked out or not, you are bound to be impressed by the skill and artistry that goes in to telling this timeless ghost story.

Although the play is no longer in Nottingham (due to my tardy review-writing) it is still touring the UK and hopefully if you check out the official website you can find a theatre near you where it is showing.

If you dare….

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