The Woman in Black needs little introduction. Originally a gothic novel by author Susan Hill, the play adaptation is one of the West End’s longest-running pieces of theatre, and has since seen numerous film, tv, and radio interpretations of the chilling tale. Taking this show out of the claustrophobic Fortune Theatre and letting it breathe in larger, more modern venues across the country could be a risky move, yet the actors never put a foot wrong.
In one of the smallest casts of any show, Antony Eden as The Actor and Robert Goodale as Arthur Kipps give a masterclass in the art of storytelling, inviting the audience to let their imaginations run wild as they create a pony and trap from a basket, and beckon an unseen terrier. And this show and its story captures the imagination like no other in a way that will have audiences hanging on every word and wincing away from shadows for days following a performance. And indeed, the fear within the theatre is palpable. In the first act as tension begins to build there are the usual sounds of fidgeting in the audience, the odd clearing of a throat or rustling of a packet. However come Act 2 it is as if everyone is too terrified to make the tiniest of noises, should they attract the attention of a ghostly apparition.
The set and lighting design are incredibly clever in ensuring that only what should be seen at any given moment can be seen, with maximum impact and minimal distraction. The stalls will absolutely be the best seats in the house to feel like you are truly part of the story as it unfolds, rather than the separation given by the distance of the circle from the action. This is a production that must be experienced, and a rare opportunity to see it in a local theatre should not be missed.
The Woman in Black will continue to haunt audiences at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn until the 21st of August, before continuing on its UK Tour to Manchester, Brighton, Glasgow, York, Blackpool, Stoke, and Edinburgh.