Saturday, 30 September 2017

REVIEW: The Woman in Black at The Fortune Theatre, London


To celebrate National Ghost Hunting Day, Raw PR invited a host of writers and bloggers to attend a special evening of ghostly fun at The Woman In Black at The Fortune Theatre in the heart of London’s West End. Seating only 432 people, it’s one of the smallest theatres in town, especially when you consider how dwarfed they are by their neighbour is the gargantuan Theatre Royal on Drury Lane which seats 2,196 people. The Fortune is a close and intimate theatre - perfect for a spooky evening of storytelling...

Learning of the tales of paranormal history within the theatre set the mood for the evening. We learned of hauntings and presences seen and felt in different areas of the theatre - onstage, back-stage and in the audience (beware if you ever sit in seat F17 of the Royal Circle in early November…!) The anticipation (and nerves) were amped up to eleven and then the show began.

For context, please allow me to explain that the last time I saw The Woman In Black, I was 13 or 14 years old and visiting on a school trip. Well, I have never been so frightened by a show in my life. I had a panic attack towards the end of Act 1 and refused to go back into the theatre for Act 2. Now, 10 years later, I was ready to face my fears and try again except now, there is no interval… no respite… no chance to escape…

A lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of a Woman in Black, engages a sceptical young actor to help him tell his terrifying story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. It all begins innocently enough, but then, as they reach further into his darkest memories, they find themselves caught up in a world of eerie marshes and moaning winds.

When someone get scared, the body’s natural response is “Fight of Flight” - a burst of adrenaline which prepares you to face what scares you or to run away as fast as you can. The suspense in The Woman In Black is every moment as terrifying as my younger self remembers it. The anticipation alone left me with adrenaline coursing through my body. Cowering behind my hands and hiding in my seat regularly throughout this 1 hour 45 minute show, it goes to show that the classics are classics for good reason. The Woman In Black has been running in London now since June 1989 making it the fourth longest running show in town - a staggering achievement.

The set is very minimalistic and as a dualogue between two actors it is
incredibly intimate making it all the more frightening. Audience reaction varied from screams to laughs (a hysterical reaction in my opinion) but one thing was for sure - we were all kept on the edges of our seats. I definitely think this show is one to see from the stalls. Being at eye level with the actors makes for an all the more frightening experience and allows you to feel even more engrossed in the show.

Terence Wilton and James Byng as Arthur Kipps and “The Actor” respectively are a wonderful pair. Wilton’s dark narrations lead the way for this ghostly tale perfectly and Byng’s vulnerability and intense horror are felt right in your core.

In London’s ever-expanding theatre scene, there are elements of this production which are a little dated. You won’t necessarily get high-end production value but that’s one of the great things about it. It’s suspense at its best, jump-scares galore and narrative storytelling to leave you cowering in your seat. If you like horror and thrills, this is the benchmark production of how things should be done.

A thrilling, British classic.

Reviewed by Harriet Langdown

Rating: ★★★★

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