23 September 2016

The Woman in Black at Richmond Theatre was nicely scary

My continuing interest in Richmond Theatre and a free evening led me to see The Woman in Black when I had no other obvious reason for doing so. Richmond Theatre usually does established safe theatre whereas I usually go to modern challenging theatre but there are times when I fancy something a little different and this was one of those nights.

The theatre's web site promised "an evening of unremitting drama, transporting the audience into a terrifying and ghostly world" which appealed to the part of me that likes Alien films today and read Ghost Stories for Boys as a child. Initially it did not appeal enough but a flash sale offer allowed me to get seat A22 in my favoured Dress Circle for a delicious £17.10.

The Woman in Black was actually written in 1983 but very much in the Gothic tradition. That in itself was a good recommendation, you just have to remember how good the two Tim Burton Batman films are.

It was a fairly simple tale with just two actors to tell it. A neat device was used to keep the cast down with one of the men telling the other a story and then they both became characters in that story.

A junior solicitor was summoned to a small market town on the north east coast of England, to attend the funeral of an elderly and reclusive widow who lived alone in a desolate and secluded house that could only be reached at low tide. That meant that he had to stay there overnight while doing his job of going through all of the widows' papers.

Those papers revealed more of the woman's history which included the expected deaths that precede ghosts.

Then things started going bump in the night and with such violence and surprise that we all jumped in our seats and yelped a little. The stage did something clever to reveal another room that had been locked and we were all on edge as the young solicitor went in to explore it, certain in the knowledge that we would not have been that brave or that foolhardy.

The story developed nicely, and scarily, with little fuss and lots of tension. I wanted to be scared a little and I was. I also enjoyed the theatre craft of the production which achieved so much with a simple stage and a small cast. It was also nice to see something in a different genre, horror is a rare commodity on the stage. I think that last scary play I was was Haunting Julia way back in 2011.

The Woman in Black was an unexpected pleasure when perhaps it should not have been given Richmond Theatre's reputation for consistently delivering entertaining shows.

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