- This event has passed.
The Woman in Black
November 7th - November 11th
The legendary production of Susan Hill’s chilling ghost story THE WOMAN IN BLACK returns to MALVERN THEATRES DIRECT FROM LONDON’S WEST END, after an incredible 33 year run at the Fortune Theatre.
The Woman in Black brilliantly delivers atmosphere, illusion and horror! Experience the thrill and excitement of this critically-acclaimed international theatre event that has been seen by over 7 million people worldwide, and continues to delight and terrify audiences of all generations.
Obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of aWoman in Black, Arthur Kipps engages a sceptical young actor tohelp him tell his terrifying story andexorcise the fear that grips his soul.
‘The most brilliantly effective spine-chiller you will ever encounter’ Daily Telegraph
‘Guaranteed to chill the blood’ Evening Standard
Recommended age 12+
Photo credit: Mark Douet
Stage Talk Magazine - Tony Clarke
It is now forty years since Susan Hill penned her most celebrated work, “The Woman in Black”, an enduringly popular ghost story in its own right, but one which has also spawned one of the most popular stage shows of recent times in the late Stephen Mallatratt’s award-winning and long-running production. Prior to its final performance at the West End’s Fortune Theatre earlier this year, “The Woman in Black” had been terrifying London theatregoers for three and a half decades, in tandem with numerous national tours running concurrently around the provinces since 1989. The tale has come to define the modern ghost story, with this latest extensive tour proving there is no sign of it losing its appeal. It is, according to the Daily Telegraph, “the most brilliantly effective spine-chiller you will ever encounter.” Few would disagree.
Director Robin Herford originally commissioned Mallatratt to write a low-budget play for the festive season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in 1987. With limited resources and funds, he opted for a minimalist adaptation of Hill’s story, a remarkable two-hander which draws significantly on the power of the human imagination to explore and enjoy, in Mallatratt’s words, the “essential simplicity and innate theatricality with which we tell our story”.
Malcolm James and Mark Hawkins are the latest in a long line of actors to present to us this masterpiece of stagecraft and invention, where an ageing Arthur Kipps (James) enlists the help of a young actor (Hawkins) to tell his story of supernatural events at Eel Marsh House, and in so doing, try to exorcise his ghosts from his troubled past. Much is left to the audience’s imagination as the actors seamlessly create and interchange roles through the simple donning of a hat, or a change of accent, with which to suggest different characters, whereas rudimentary props such as a wicker basket represent a bed one minute, a pony and trap the next. We transition smoothly and realistically from one location to another – the foggy streets of London become the train to Crythin Gifford, the evocative graveyard, the treacherous Nine Lives Caueway – with such simplicity. Yet it is all totally believable and utterly compelling, such is the power of suggestion allied to the versatility of two such talented actors. Lighting is cleverly employed to reveal hitherto unseen locations behind a gauze curtain, a range of sound effects will have you jumping regularly from your seats, smoke machines vividly create the sinister sea frets which engulf Eel Marsh House as well as the audience, an empty rocking chair, terrifyingly, moves on its own, a music box plays unaided: all of these wonderful theatrical elements combine to immerse us in a nerve-shredding, tension-filled thriller, one which tips you onto the edge of your seat, and then leaves you perched there for two exhausting hours. It is theatre at its finest.
Subtle changes since the show’s inception means the performance continues to evolve over time, refreshing the tale for new audiences and allowing a cast which changes annually to bring new ideas and perspectives to their roles, and preventing what Herford calls “endless carbon copies of the original production”. And yet this is a play which consistently delivers a thrilling and unforgettable theatrical experience to audiences up and down the country, with many, myself included, returning multiple times over the years. It is a haunting tale in more ways than one. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Behind the Arras - Jane Lush
This legendry production of Susan Hill’s eerie ghost story, The woman in Black, is guaranteed to chill you and have you sitting on the edge of your seats!!
Directed by Robin Herford, with designs by Michael Holt and lighting by Kevin Sleep, this show brilliantly delivers atmosphere, illusion and horror.
Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of the novel tells the story of how a lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over his family by the spectre of the Woman in Black, engages a young actor to help him tell his story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. As they delve further into his darkest memories the borders between make believe and reality begin to blur and the flesh begins to creep.
The story begins when Arthur Kipp meets the actor and tries to tell him his story. The actor tries to encourage Kipp to use vocal dynamic and dramatic expression to tell the story but after this fails he decides the best way forward is for the actor himself to tell the story as Kipp, and Kipp to play all the other characters he meets along the way. The set is minimal, consisting of a packing box, several chairs and a clothes rail but the actor introduces sound effects, and with these and the use of the imagination of the audience the story is told.
Arthur Kipp is engaged to deal with the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow who dwelt at Eel Marsh House on an island over a causeway which is cut off by the sea at high tide.
On arriving at the village nearby no-one seems willing to engage with Kipp or discuss the woman who dwelt at Eel Marsh House.
Arthur, wanting to get the job done quickly decides to stay overnight at the house.
A series of terrifying and unexplained events occur. The sightings of a woman dressed in black with a gaunt wasted face, the sound of a pony and trap crashing into the marsh and the terrible screams of a woman and child, not to mention the rocking chair which rocks by itself, understandably alarm and unsettle Kipp, but he does not believe in ghosts.
As he continues his work a horrifying and tragic story unfolds which impacts upon the life of Kipp and his own family.
The dramatic appearance of an apparition combined with very clever sound and lighting effects keep the audience gripped with terror and on the edge of their seats.
There are outstanding performances from Malcolm James who returns to The Woman in Black to play Arthur Kipp having first played it on a UK tour and then at the fortune theatre, and Mark Hawkins who first played the actor in The Woman in Black at the Fortune theatre and the Madinat theatre.
Fairy Powered Productions - Courie Amado Juneau
So, it turns out The Woman In Black isn’t about Johnny Cash’s wife after all! It is, however, the most chilling, effective ghost story I’ve ever had the pleasure to catch live (so to speak)!
Arthur Kipps almost apologetically shuffles onto the stage to read his transcribed tale of terror. He’s secured the services of a professional in the hope that in delivering it publicly the horror will be laid to rest. Soon The Actor interjects with some helpful advice on stagecraft and these opening exchanges between the two (there are but two named cast members) show wonderful comic sensibilities in spades.
Malcolm James (Kipps etc.) – gave us an array of intriguing and believable characters, from the opening ineptitude of Kipps acting and growing confidence of delivery, to every other character that Kipps the younger will meet in the retelling of the tale. James’s range was astounding and I particularly admired the many seamless, subtle shifts in mood, making one marvel at his acting skills and stamina (given the rapid costume changes and running to a fro).
Mark Hawkins played The Actor and Kipps the younger (from the early years re-enactment). From the opening commanding stage presence to the more subservient junior role in a legal firm to the gradual descent into madness caused by the events of that house – his acting was nothing short of utterly compelling. I was (very aptly) spellbound by both actors and on the edge of my seat (when not jumping off it)…
…which seems like an apropos point to mention this is possibly the jumpiest piece of theatre I’ve ever seen. It’s a good job that popcorn wasn’t served in buckets otherwise the theatre staff would be hoovering the rafters from now until next Halloween to retrieve it!
It’s amazing to see how many different locations were wrought from the same space – a graveyard, an entire house, a foggy moor, offices, the theatre – using just a few props and some lighting! Kudos to Lighting Designer Kevin Sleep for producing such wondrous transformations whilst also providing a gorgeous sunset and sunrise and producing the first major jump (no spoilers). Most importantly, the employment of shadows gave a menacing effect throughout. Genius.
I’d never before seen smoke used to such dramatic (or bewilderingly evocative) effect. It didn’t just sit on stage and drift into the audience – it swept over one, enveloping the senses like an immersive malevolent presence. The shadows birthed all manner of nastiness real and imagined, with an expectation that something horrid would be hidden in every nook and cranny of the subconscious. And here the Sound Designer, Sebastian Frost, deserved an equally large (alongside lighting) pat on the back for pinpoint accuracy of execution!
Just like any good horror, a convincing twist in the tale gave one last genuine surprise just when you thought you had survived the emotional onslaught and could relax.
An exceptionally clever script, muscular direction (from Robin Herford) and top drawer acting all combined to deliver a ghost story that will stay long in the memory (and heart, once it’s out of your mouth). I’ve never had so much fun having the wind put up me and cannot recommend The Woman In Black highly enough. Scarily good!