By: Susan Hill, adapted by Stephen Mallatrat
Director: Robin Herford
Details: Fortune Theatre, Russell Street, London WC2B 5HH
Tube: Covent Garden
Watching two men telling a ghost story on a small drab stage in an even smaller theater, I was a little skeptical of the entertainment and fright factor rumored to accompany the Woman in Black. When a woman's starkly pale face appeared beneath a shroud of black and slid silently across the stage, however, tension and fear began to grip me, building through intermission and to the chilling climax, and suddenly my approval of Stephen Mallatratt's rendition of the frightful tale was reinforced in full. His interpretation of the novel, written by Susan Hill, has been producing shrills of fear and amusement from audiences since its debut at the Fortune Theater in 1989.
The show starts out innocently enough: a shaken old man looking to share his story on the stage, seeking assistance from an actor to enhance its theatrical value. The young actor proceeds to chip away at the old man's stubbornness and aversion to performance, eventually revealing his brilliant supportive acting abilities. Meanwhile, the young actor represents the old man at the time of the horrid events he looks to re-enact.
Through old-fashioned stage lighting and sounds, a small set of simple props and a good bit of imagination, the two men are able to transform the rehearsal of their manuscript into a truly remarkable and believable thriller.
The story revolves around the old man's stint as a solicitor visiting the spooky house of a recently deceased old woman. Just outside an isolated town full of peculiar people, who shrink away at any mention of the woman, the remote house is accessible only during the day. A series of chilling nights alone in the house involves a few terrifying run-ins with a mysterious cart and buggy, the black-cloaked woman and a secret room. The events are highlighted by some token blood-curling screams, which send the man and the audience into a frightened frenzy.
Woman in Black provides a refreshing night of fear and entertainment through imaginative storytelling, convincing scare tactics and a couple excellent performances by its stars.
- Lauren Burke