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The Woman in Black – from the Novella by Susan Hill adapted by Stephen MalltratTheatre Royal Bath

 

It is hard to believe that this production is 27 years old and remains one of the longest running plays in the West End. The play proves to be timeless through a myriad of devices and techniques to provide bone chilling moments of terror alongside an example of great storytelling.

Based on the novella by Susan Hill here, Mr. Potts a grief stricken lawyer employs a young actor to tell his story. However, the consequences are far reaching and more tragic than anyone could imagine.

The success of this show relies on the use of atmosphere, illusion and controlled horror. The role swapping that occupies the first few scenes whilst being laborious and overlong ensures that the audience are drawn into the overall style of the piece and will accept without questioning the many characters brought to life onstage by merely a switch of a hat. The open stage reminds us that we are watching a rehearsal and therefore the nature of the piece is both gripping and stripped back at the same time.

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Matthew Spencer (The Actor) is in full flight, controlling the story telling and keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. David Acton (Kipps) who has the arduous task of the repetitive first few scenes flourishes into a multi role player with utter conviction.

This remains a great piece of theatre and a must for anyone who has not seen it. It is not the film, it is far superior engaging an audience on a level rarely reached by many productions and proving that big budgets are not necessary; just a fine script, excellent actors and the imagination of a collective audience is all that is needed plus a few sound effects. Simple maybe but it creates an utterly compelling piece of theatre. Get a ticket and take a friend.

   

****

Petra Schofield

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