WHO would have thought a cut-price stocking filler from Scarborough would go on to become the second longest-running show in the West End?
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A minimalist Gothic ghost story that relies on your imagination to ‘fill in the gaps’, its 28-year-long success comes down to one thing, everyone loves a good scare.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of them in Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1983 novella The Woman In Black.
Set in rural Victorian England, The Woman In Black follows London solicitor, Arthur Kipps (Malcolm James), as arrives at a creepy, isolated mansion to settle the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs Alice Drablow.
Told in flashback, an actor (Matt Connor) has been hired by the ageing Kipps to exorcise his demons via a theatrical presentation of his tale to family and friends.
Like all good horror stories, though, this slow-burning start lulls you into a false sense of security.
With only a few rickety chairs, a dusty curtain and a flimsy door for a set, it’s enough to make a sceptic wonder if director Robin Herford really can scare the pants off a packed theatre. However, thanks to surround sound, innovative lighting techniques and the quality of the performances, The Woman In Black is guaranteed to have you clinging to the person sitting next to you.
That said, hard-core fans of horror might criticise a reliance on over-amplified sound for heart-jumping effects. They might also find the obvious here’s-the-scary-bit-coming-up prelude predictable, too.
But that doesn’t stop you bouncing out of your seat every time the intended scares come.
Like any good ghost-story, there’s a chilling sting-in-the-tail, and only when it touches upon its core subject does it resonate that bit deeper.
Connor can feel proud of his engaging, fourth-wall-breaking performance, as, too can James, whose ability to play many different characters so convincingly is one of the spookiest aspects of the entire show.
Scared? You will be.
Run ends Saturday