Before the famed film starring Daniel Radcliffe, the well-regarded book by Susan Hill made its name on the stage as adapted by Stephen Mallatratt. After 25 successful years in London’s West End, the production is touring. Starburst Magazine went along to Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre to see a much different interpretation of The Woman in Black.
We are introduced to an older Arthur Kipps ( Julian Forsyth) who has sought the help of an actor (Antony Eden) to tell the story of Eel Marsh House. Kipps feels that it ‘must be told’ in order to be at peace with himself. The conversation between the two men unfolds into a retelling of Arthur Kipps' story. As a young, enthusiastic junior solicitor, Kipps is sent to the village of Crythin Gifford to tie up the loose ends of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. However, upon seeing the young woman with the wasted face, dressed all in black at Drablow’s funeral, Kipps begins a terrifying journey of discovery into the secrets of Eel Marsh House and the sacrifices that Crythin Gifford has had to make.
But of course what Mr Kipps has brought the actor is only a story... isn’t it?
What the stage production of The Woman in Black offers, first and foremost, is not only a faithful adaptation but a superior one, and this is largely down to the strength of actors Forsyth and Eden. As the only named cast of the production, not only do they present their characters of Kipps and the actor, but also the other characters of the story. Their performances create an intimacy with the audience; much like being told a story as a child before bedtime. They create comic moments (such as the actor trying to get Mr Kipps out of his comfort zone to tell the story) and moments of massive tension to make any audience grab their nearest theatre patron in support.
Meanwhile, the use of set creates the atmosphere of Crythin Gifford, moving us around the village, onto the marshlands of Eel Marsh House with their claustrophobic smoke effects. You might quibble at the way some of the story's key reveals are handled, but generally speaking, this stage version of The Woman in Black surpasses many cinematic ghost stories for strong performances and creepiness of mood.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK continues to tour across the UK into 2013. For more information visit the office site.