ARTHUR KIPPS – David Acton
THE ACTOR – Matthew Spencer
DIRECTOR & ASSISTANT DIRECTOR – Robin Herford & Antony Eden
LIGHTING DESIGN – Kevin Sleep & Tony Simpson
SOUND DESIGN – Gareth Owen & Theo Holloway
STAGE MANAGEMENT – Jon Huyton, Emma Collins, Valeria Bettini
The stage adaptation of ‘The Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill came about when Robin Herford was running the Stephen Joseph theatre and realised that he hadn’t spent his entire grant. He decided to stage a ghost story that could be done cheaply and quickly. He approached the venue’s playwright Stephen Mallatratt, with the proviso that the set and costumes had to cost less than £1,000 and that there was only enough money to pay four actors.
Mallatratt came back with a novel named ‘The Woman in Black’. Herford agreed that this would be a great idea, but noted that there were too many characters. Mallatratt’s solution was to make the show a play within a play. Elderly Arthur Kipps brings a ghost story to a young actor, and they proceed to bring the story to life through their retelling with the actor taking on the part of a young Kipps, and the elderly actor playing the characters that Kipps’ encounters on his way.
The Woman in Black is a play that heavily relies on lighting and sound. This latest touring production executed this brilliantly. The low lighting used in the play is very effective in making the audience feel like anything could happen at any time. This, coupled with the sound design – which came from the back of the auditorium – made the audience feel like they were part of the story. Both actors were excellent, so much so that at times I would forget the show was structured as a “play within a play” due to the fact that they created the right amount of suspense to keep the audience on the edge of their seat to build up to moments that had them jumping out of them.
If this touring company is coming to your city next, I would highly recommend getting tickets!