A two-man play within a play – That’s right! Two plays, all on one stage and performed by two men only.
As somebody who hadn’t seen the theatre production before, and barely knew about the story other than the film adaptation, I was incredibly surprised by it.
The Woman in Black is a very well known story, whether seen in the 2012 Daniel Radcliffe film or the theatre production itself, it’s been around since it was first written by Susan Hill in 1983.
David Acton, the man who played Arthur Kipps, began as a shaky old man who knew nothing of acting, and we as the audience playing the role of empty chairs in that very theatre. The Actor, played by Matthew Spencer, then appears to offer his acting expertise on how to perform this gruesome story. A poor, troubled man just wants to tell his story, and an actor who wants to teach him how to perform it.
And here we begin the story. Arthur Kipps acting as every other character, and The Actor taking on the role of Arthur Kipps himself. We drift in-between the two different worlds, from the two men attempting to share a story to the story itself, a progression of horror that steadily seeped into the two men’s lives in the today setting.
The Woman in Black is an intricate story and was told by these two actors with so little props, just as if they were performing way back when, to a crowd of chairs in practice.
The lighting crew had the set down to a T, the shocks and sounds lining up perfectly to create a scream-inducing scare. Even more incredible was the way the lighting made the stage transition to different scenes, and with minimum fuss and very little set change.
One irritation I had to mention about the play was the audience reactions when the recordings would get too loud or screams would play. It left the audience talking for half a second afterwards, and unfortunately we were left missing vital dialogue while the crowd calmed down. I will say this though; a lot of the audience had the same problem and began shushing when the screams were over, just to enjoy the show a little more in silence.
Aside from this I have nothing but praise for both the performance and the stage. The thin curtain, lit up to reveal several rooms behind it and even a staircase, was incredibly well done. I adored the way the child’s bedroom was presented, and the rocking of the chair, which caused so much anxiety from the audience. Jumps we expected to get didn’t happen, and surprised us at random moments when you didn’t expect a jump scare. This show really was incredible.
The Woman in Black is a story not to be missed, and to see it performed on stage is certainly an adventure. It’s a completely different atmosphere to be sat in one place, watching something you can’t pause or walk away from is an entirely different level of fear.
The Woman in Black will be at The Regent Theatre until Saturday 22 October.
Tickets are available from The Regent Theatre Box Office, by calling 0844 871 7649 or visiting www.atgtickets.com/stoke