Tucked away next to the huge Theatre Royal Drury Lane sits the Fortune Theatre where THE WOMAN IN BLACK holds twenty-seven years of residency. With only two actors to carry the performance and minimal set, it’s almost surprising how successful the show is; with now a blockbuster film and sequel, as well as the UK Tour.
The Fortune Theatre is dreary, old fashioned and relatively small… having to squeeze into tight corners just to work your way through the bar and into a toilet stall. While some may believe the theatre needs updating, it complements well with the gloomy atmosphere the performance begins with. The theatre is also said to be haunted when a ghostly figure of a woman was seen to be in one of the boxes last year… perhaps it was a just visitor from Royal Drury Lane which is believed to be the world’s most haunted theatre.
At the start of the play we are introduced to Arthur Kipps trying to read aloud his story; a story about a curse that has stuck with him for many, many years and he feels must be shared. Unfortunately, poor Arthur isn’t so good at engaging his audience and has hired an actor to help him portray the tale. Once both men get more to grips with their surroundings, we learn of the dark history that follows Arthur.
Stuart Fox reprises his role after first playing Arthur Kipps two years ago. As he opens the show we see him to be timid and unforthcoming with his story, as an audience we pity him and see he needs help. Later on we get to see how diverse Stuarts acting is when he becomes several different characters including Mr Dailey, Mr Jerome and strange local villager Keckwick. Joseph Chance plays The Actor who takes on the role of young Arthur Kipps whilst the tale unfolds. At first he is sceptical of any paranormal activity for “he does not believe in ghosts”, but as the performance goes on we see him gradually descend to absolute terror of the goings on at Eel Marsh House. Both actors carry the performance well for two hours, their mannerisms and characterisation keeps the audience engaged. A certain energy amongst both of them encourages us as the audience to really use our own imagination when it comes to sound effects; lighting, onstage costume changes and some small props to become the dreaded house, a pony trap, and a dog called Spider. The actors give a paced but slick performance that even gets some screams from the stalls.
There is one other element to the play, and that is the ‘vision’ herself that is The Woman In Black… but with no mention of her in the programme, the mystery remains as to whether she was real or not.
I first saw the show on a school trip with my drama class when I was fifteen years old and at the time I remember it to be the scariest experience of my life. Certainly, the school groups that were in on the recent performance I saw also felt similar as they clung to each other and screamed at moments of high tension.
For those unfamiliar with the play and love a good ghost story, THE WOMAN IN BLACK is definitely one to see. Now that I’m older, I think I enjoy it more for its jumpy scares and surprises rather than the tale itself. The setting scene was personally a little too long for me, but this didn’t hold back from the thrills later to come. If you’re looking for a bit of a spooky night in London, something much better than some of the walking ghost tours…get your tickets for THE WOMAN IN BLACK.
Reviewed by Ellie Devonshire
THE WOMAN IN BLACK is currently booking at the Fortune Theatre until 23 September 2017. Get tickets