By midlandsmovies, Jan 21 2020 12:39PM
The Woman in Black at Curve Leicester
The Woman in Black is a 1983 horror novel by Susan Hill, written in the style of a traditional Gothic novel and made into a 2012 supernatural horror film starring Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe with great support from Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer and Liz White.
Yet although it was a commercial success, the original book was adapted into a more famous stage play by Stephen Mallatratt that is now the second longest-running play in the West End.
The plot of all adaptations follows a young lawyer who travels to a remote village where he discovers that the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorising the locals.
And Curve Leicester now has a further adaptation directed by Robin Herford. It again seeks to tell the story of solicitor Arthur Kipps who attends the funeral of a client and subsequently discovers the dreaded secret of the Woman in Black.
In contrast to the film and book however, this stage version adds a layer of interesting complexity as it delivers a play within a play.
Kipps is first embodied by Robert Goodale, as an old man hoping to turn his story into a stage play for friends and family. He is assisted by a professional actor (Daniel Easton as “The Actor”) who wants to help shape and deliver a successful story.
Both actors do well and before long, and after reading excerpts from Kipps’ diaries, The Actor ends up playing the younger incarnation of Kipps and the whole production takes a more conventional form.
The sparse stage layout first evokes a small theatre but as it moves into the recreation of the "real" story then it becomes more elaborate. We see dusty sheets on old furniture and spy mysterious shapes through the haze of a semi-translucent curtain.
This opens up the play to a larger location and larger themes about loneliness and remembrance. It does dip back into the fact that the story is being recollected and acted out from the pages of the diary. However, although this is somewhat clever this also hinders the audience as it “snaps” you out of the dark atmosphere of the narrative itself.
Both actors do well intertwining their different roles as needed and playing off a surprising amount of comedy. This is thrown in the script and performed well by the double-act from the very start. The suspension of disbelief is an allegorical and on-stage physical trait of the play, especially when they play multiple roles throughout.
The scares come from what isn’t seen – a bang on a door here, a creaking rocking chair there – but after hearing anecdotes from others about the horrific nature of the play I can’t but express some disappointment. At no point was I genuinely frightened and as the play ratcheted up tension, it was a shame that scenes came to a rather abrupt end quite often.
All the audience tension in a near-silent auditorium was lost as we jumped back to the “play” rehearsals or a pinch of comedy was thrown in which undercut the well set-up horror.
In the end, the construction of the play was its most intriguing aspect and the second half’s stage lighting, furniture and props were scene-setting delights. However, if you happen to have a strong disposition, don’t go into The Woman in Black ready to be spooked as the less-than-average scares are too few and far between.
Tue 21 Jan — Sat 25 Jan
Age Recommendation: 12+
Running time: 2 hour 5 minutes including a 15 minute interval
Please note this performance contains loud noises and smoke.
£35 – £10
£15 Under 16s
£15 Under 18s school groups
£18 16 – 26 yrs (with a FREE 16 – 26 Membership)
£4 off for Groups 10+
15% off for Members or 241 tickets on Mon 20 Jan
*Discounts are subject to terms and conditions, availability and are only valid on certain performances.