Theatre review: The Woman in Black, King’s Theatre

A scene from The Woman In Black. Picture: Tristram Kenton
A scene from The Woman In Black. Picture: Tristram Kenton
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IF The Mousetrap, as the longest running play staged in London, is the Everest of West End theatre, then The Woman In Black is K2.

And like K2, The Woman In Black is a far more compelling, frightening creature than its better known front-runner.

The Woman in Black

King’s Theatre, Leven Street

* * * * *

While Agatha Christie’s whodunnit allows an audience to sit back and indulge in a bit of amateur sleuthing, Susan Hill’s dark and mysterious woman makes for a tense, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride as the audience desperately clings to the hope they’ve come to the wrong conclusion about the final twist in the tragic, unfolding events.

You may have seen the recent movie version, but there’s a nice comfortable screen between you and the ghost and an almost palatable ending to the ghoulish tale. In the theatre, you are the fly on the wall and things aren’t wrapped up quite so neatly.

It’s not a comfortable sensation, sharing an auditorium with a supernatural phantom bent on revenge, particularly when the production she’s in has had 24 years of practise in ramping up the tension and thrilling viewers.

An absorbing two-hander, it stars Julian Forsyth as hapless solicitor Arthur Kipps and Antony Eden as The Actor, a man that Kipps has hired to help him tell his story.

The Woman In Black is an extraordinary tale that grips from the first few minutes of the first act, Kipps frequently referring ominously to events that are to come.

Forsyth captures the essence of Kipps beautifully and humorously, flitting effortlessly and dazzlingly from ageing Edwardian gentleman to character after character as he tells his story with Eden’s over-confident, accomplished Actor in tow.

The technical elements of the production are in perfect harmony with the story telling. The set is deceptively complex, revealing different dimensions as the story unfolds, the lighting and sound doing as much to push the story forward as the actors themselves.

Just make sure you go with someone who’s willing to hold your hand.

• Run ends Saturday