A ghost story in winter is the perfect seasonal treat, and the most chilling of them all returns to Bath next month when the unanimously acclaimed stage production of THE WOMAN IN BLACK plays the Theatre Royal from Monday 2nd December to Saturday 7th December. Now in its twenty-fourth year in the West End, this uniquely nerve-jangling play visits Bath with Stuart Fox as ‘Arthur Kipps’ and Gwynfor Jones as ‘The Actor’.
Proud and solitary, Eel Marsh House surveys the windswept reaches of the salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway. Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the house’s sole inhabitant, unaware of the tragic secrets which lie hidden behind the 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. This feeling is deepened by the reluctance of the locals to talk of the woman in black – and her terrible purpose.
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. 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 and the flesh begins to creep as the past comes to life.
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.
Over seven million people have lived to tell the tale of one of the most terrifying and 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. As well as enjoying major national tours, it is now the longest running show ever to be staged at London’s Fortune Theatre. Its success has since reached a global level, having spread to the United States, South America and Tokyo. The Woman in Black reached an even wider audience last year with the release of a major motion picture, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which became the highest grossing British horror film in 20 years.
Stuart Fox performs the role of ‘Arthur Kipps’. His West End credits include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Woman in Mind, The Normal Heart and Filumena. He has performed many times at the Bristol Old Vic, Manchester’s Library Theatre, and Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre. His previous credits at the Theatre Royal Bath include Hamlet in 1983; and the world premiere productions of Alan Ayckbourn’s Drowning on Dry Land in 2005 and Improbable Fiction in 2006, both of which toured to Bath direct from the Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough.
Gwynfor Jones plays the role of ‘The Actor’. His previous theatre work includes The Winter’s Tale with Headlong Theatre Company, Far from the Madding Crowd with English Touring Theatre, and The Hound of the Baskervilles at Oldham Coliseum. His television credits include Being Human, Meet the Parents and When Calls the Heart.
The Woman in Black was written by Susan Hill, whose 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.
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.
Since 1989, The Woman in Black has enjoyed seven highly successful visits to the Theatre Royal Bath. The production is directed by Robin Herford with designs by Michael Holt and lighting by Kevin Sleep, produced by PW Productions Ltd.
Much of Robin Herford’s career has been involved with Alan Ayckbourn and the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Joining the company in 1976 as an actor after training at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, he was appointed Associate Director in 1979 and Artistic Director from 1986 to 1988. Robin has appeared in more original productions of Ayckbourn plays than any other actor. During his time as 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. His recent credits include Rain Man, The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles and Season’s Greetings, all of which toured to Bath.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 2nd December to Saturday 7th December. To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or visitwww.theatreroyal.org.uk
Photographs by Craig Sugden