the woman in black.
'The Woman in Black'
Norwich Theatre Royal, 22nd April 2017
dir. Robin Herford
I expend a vast amount of energy in avoiding things that scare me. Life is often more than scary enough, and so things pegged as 'scary' in film, novels and theatre are, in my opinion, best left avoided. I am no thrill seeker. During a ticket buying flurry last year, however, I eagerly agreed to seeing 'The Woman in Black' on tour in Norwich - front row seats, no less! - and in retrospect I couldn't be more pleased that I said "yes".
Knowing nothing about the play, having never read the book and having actively avoided the film, I was apprehensive: I had been told to expect plenty of jump scares.
I jumped perhaps twice during the play; never at the woman in black herself and always when a moment of quiet exploded into a flurry of lights and sound - probably most so at an unexpected clap of thunder in a scene on a train.
What the play lacks in terror it made up for, in abundance, in heart. It is a moving story of love and loss more than it is a ghost story, and the performances of both David Acton as Arthur Kipps and Matthew Spencer as The Actor are magnificent in their depth and pathos. They held a full theatre rapt for the length of the play: no mean feat in a two-hander. Acton's performances as literally everyone other than 'Arthur Kipps' are incredible: they are nuanced without being overblown. Spencer, however, really is the star of the show. His performance is completely gripping throughout, and he completely transforms from The Actor to Arthur Kipps and is mesmerising, particularly as the show reaches it's climax.
The 'play within a play' here does not seem conceited, and whilst the opening minutes at times feeling a little overdone in setting up the concept, overall the effect is a good one indeed.
It is a wonderful production and I am jolly glad to have seen it.
The tour continues through to the end of June; you can find more information here.