Review: The Woman In Black at York Theatre Royal

It opened in 1997 and is now one of the longest running shows in the West End. The Woman in Black has returned to York Theatre Royal on tour. If you haven’t yet seen the show it is well worth a visit.

Review by Angie Millard

Adapted by the late Stephen Mallatratt from a story written by Susan Hill, it was first shown at the Alan Aykbourn Theatre in Scarborough. It is a two-hander with an ingenious use of props, spectacular sound effects and multi-layered storytelling. The emphasis is on tight structure and the building of suspense through the narrative so a wicker trunk is used as train seats and a horse and trap ,well accompanied by appropriate sounds. When I saw it first in the West End’s Fortune Theatre, the audience gasped in shock as some of the effects were revealed. It was an ‘on the edge of your seats’ horror story and all the more effective since there was a cast of only two.

The last visit to York was handicapped by the lack of proper black-out so that the building of tension failed to produce the climax it deserves. But this production has been tailored to fit the spaces it will visit. Ghostly apparitions and eerie sound effects chill and no opportunity to shock is missed.

The plot is based on a man who wishes to tell the story of what happened to him years ago and the clever use of a play within the play explores this. A lawyer, Daniel Eastern, is sent to a desolate house to sort through the papers of its deceased owner. Suffice it to say no one dare accompany him and the night he spends there alone gives the play its dreadful power.

The scenes which explore this tale are superbly executed with Eastern and Robert Goodale demonstrating impressive versatility. The ending also is true to the pure ghost story genre in that we leave the theatre fully aware of the evil which will continue. Susan Hill’s chilling piece of fiction lends itself perfectly to theatrical interpretation.

The Director Robin Herford has been with and seen the development of the piece since 1987; he has real passion for the production and it shows.

This is a theatre classic of our times. Go and see it. If you’ve seen it already, go again. I promise you that you will get something different out of the experience and most importantly enjoy the horror!

The Woman In Black will be performed at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 16 November. The director is Robin Herford, The designer is Micheal Holt. Lighting Design is by Kevin Sleep. Sound design is by Sebastion Frost with original Sound Design by Rob Mead.