Now in its twenty-seventh year in the West End, the unanimously acclaimed staging of The Woman in Black visits the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 21st to Saturday 26th November as part of a national tour. A brilliantly successful study in atmosphere, illusion and controlled horror, Robin Herford’s gripping production stars David Acton as Arthur Kipps and Matthew Spencer as The Actor, as the cast reprise the roles they played in the West End earlier this year.
“A truly nerve-shredding experience” – Daily Mail
Nearly eight million people have lived to tell the tale of one of the most successful theatre events ever staged. The Woman in Black was first performed at the Theatre-By-The-Sea in Scarborough in 1987 to rave reviews. It opened in the West End in 1989 where it has enjoyed continued success ever since and toured nationally many times. The 2016 UK tour runs concurrently with the West End production.
Eel Marsh House stands tall and isolated on the windswept salt marshes beyond the Nine Lives Causeway on the East Coast. Here Mrs Alice Drablow lived – and died – alone. Young Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is ordered by his firm to travel up from London to attend her funeral and sort out all her papers. His task is a lonely one and, at first, Kipps is quite unaware of the tragic secrets which lie behind the house’s shuttered windows. It is not until he glimpses a wasted young woman dressed all in black at the funeral that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold. The reluctance of locals to talk of the woman in black, only serves to deepen this feeling. When he asks questions, they refuse to even acknowledge her existence, leaving Kipps to discover her terrible purpose for himself.
Years later, as an old man, Kipps recounts his experiences to an actor in a desperate attempt to exorcise the curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of a ‘Woman in Black’. As the two men act out the solicitor’s experiences on Eel Marsh all those years ago, the border between make believe and reality blurs as the past comes to life and they find themselves caught up in a world of eerie marshes and moaning winds.
‘The atmosphere is so charged-up that on more than one occasion the entire
audience screamed in terror” – The Independent
Stephen Mallatratt’s brilliantly effective adaptation of Susan Hill’s best-selling novel combines the power and intensity of live theatre with a cinematic quality inspired by the world of film noir. It is a formula that provides audiences with an evening of unremitting drama and sheer theatricality as they are transported into a chilling and ghostly world. The production’s huge popularity has reached a global level, having toured to the United States, South America, Tokyo and Singapore. Since 1989, The Woman in Black has enjoyed eight successful visits to Bath’s Theatre Royal.
In 2012, Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black was released as a major motion picture, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which became the highest grossing British horror film in 20 years. Its sequel, The Woman in Black 2: Angel Of Death, followed in 2014.
David Acton plays ‘Arthur Kipps’, a role he also performed in the West End this August. As well as playing many roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, David’s stage credits also include Jane Wenham the Witch of Walkern for Out of Joint; The Comedy of Errors, Henry V, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Propeller – touring to Bath in the latter in 2013; Anjin: The Shogun and the Samurai in Tokyo and at Sadler’s Wells; Richard II for London’s Old Vic Company; and Much Ado About Nothing with The Peter Hall Company at the Theatre Royal Bath in 2005. His film and television credits include Downton Abbey, Doctors, EastEnders, Silent Witness, Hollyoaks, The Bill, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Casualty and Persuasion.
Matthew Spencer plays ‘The Actor’, a role he performed alongside David in the West End. His stage credits also include War Horse in the West End; Tartuffe at Watermill Theatre; and Nicholas Nickleby in the West End, Toronto and on tour, including Bath’s Theatre Royal in 2007. He also played Bath in This Happy Breed in 2011’s Peter Hall Company season, and created the role of Syme in Robert Icke’s original Headlong production of 1984 at Nottingham, the Almeida Theatre, in the West End and on tour. He toured to Bath last year in 1984, playing the lead role of Winston. His film and television credits include My Family; Alice, directed by Marianne Elliott; and The Runner, winner of the People’s Choice Award and 2013 Best Short Film at the Reed Film Festival.
The Woman in Black follows the classic ghost story tradition of Charles Dickens, M.R James, Henry James and Edith Wharton. Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation for the stage remains entirely true to the book itself and uses much of Susan Hill’s own descriptive writing and dialogue, while transforming the novel into a totally gripping piece of theatre.
Author Susan Hill’s other works include the novels I’m the King of the Castle, Strange Meeting and In the Springtime of the Year. Her books have won the Whitbread fiction Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and been shortlisted for The Booker Prize. She has also written non-fiction and children’s books and reviewed books for numerous national newspapers and journals. Her most recent books, a series of crime novels featuring Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler, are set to be adapted for television.
Stephen Mallatratt wrote his early plays while working as an actor in Alan Ayckbourn’s Scarborough Company. He adapted The Forsyte Saga for ITV in 2002, in a lavish new production of the BBC’s classic 1968 black and white drama. His other television work included Coronation Street for Granada TV and Island at War in 2004.
Director Robin Herford has worked extensively with Alan Ayckbourn and Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre. He joined the company in 1976 as an actor, after training at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, he was appointed Associate Director in 1979 and was Artistic Director from 1986 to 1988. Whilst Artistic Director at Scarborough, he commissioned Stephen Mallatratt to write Touch Wood and Whistle, a play about white witchcraft, and the phenomenally successful adaptation of The Woman in Black, both of which he directed. Robin’s recent credits include The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Season’s Greetings, all of which toured to Bath; and Relatively Speaking, which plays Bath this November.
The Woman in Black appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 21st to Saturday 26th November. To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or visit www.theatreroyal.org.uk