The Woman in Black

The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Tues 14th -Sat 18th April

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Adapted from Susan Hill’s 1983 gothic horror story The Woman in Black it’s brought to the stage by renowned playwright Stephen Mallatratt. Made on a budget it was Mallatratt’s genius to make it a play within a play, therefore needing only two actors on stage. Director Robin Hereford’s deft production uses a spartan set; a basket and two chairs, a door, dust sheets for tomb stones and a projected image for the house on the marsh. An elderly Arthur Kipps brings a ghost story to a young actor, the story of a curse he believes was cast over him 30 years ago. The actor turns the story into a drama and we watch Kipps and the actor rehearse it in an “empty” theatre. It’s the story of a young   Arthur Kipps, a  solicitor, who has to visit the remote town of Crythin Gifford and the mysterious house on the marsh to tie up a dead woman’s affairs. Unfortunately he discovers too late why the townsfolk shrink from the place. The actor plays a young Arthur Kipps whilst “old” Kipps pays every other character in the story. As they rehearse for the show the staging itself becomes prey to the supernatural visitations of the Woman in Black.
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The austere staging generates its fear through simple power of suggestion, it asks the audience to do just a little bit of work. It avoids special effects and gore but instead uses clever  lighting and copious amounts of dry ice to create real atmosphere,  a scene in the second half using a staircase was very effective in making you feel like you  were inside the house on the marsh itself, but it was the sound effects that were crucial in keeping the tension cranked up. Malcolm James who played “old”  Kipps and everyone else in the play was amazing.
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He was able to inhabit all the different characters so effortlessly using nothing more than a scarf, a different hat or a change of coat, each one different and distinctive. The use of the titular vision  is kept to a minimum making her rare appearances all the more chilling and effective. The first half sets the scene  but it’s the second half that really had the audeince jump, me included, several times. The final twist is left entirely to your imagination and is a tribute to the great storytelling and stage craft of this production. It’s this plays silver anniversary and it’s being celebrated with this tour. It moves on to  the Glasgow Theatre Royal Monday 20th to Saturday 25th April. So go on don’t be scared.
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Reviewer : Angela Nisbet
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Posted on April 17, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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