The Woman in Black: review

Actors Antony Eden ( left, who plays The Actor) and Julian Forsyth (playing Arthur Kipps) in Scarborough for the touring production of Woman In Black by local author Susan Hill, at the Futurist theatre until 22nd December. Photo by Andrew Higgins 125109d 17/12/12

Actors Antony Eden ( left, who plays The Actor) and Julian Forsyth (playing Arthur Kipps) in Scarborough for the touring production of Woman In Black by local author Susan Hill, at the Futurist theatre until 22nd December. Photo by Andrew Higgins 125109d 17/12/12

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With Scarborough as it “spiritual” home, it was a real treat to hear that The Woman in Black was returning to town.

Adapted from the novel by Scarborough writer Susan Hill, the play first premiered here in 1987, as has now been seen by millions - including West End audiences - as it celebrates its 25th year.

With a lot to live up to, I was hoping the play would be as spine-chilling and nerve-shredding as promised on the publicity leaflets.

As the two-man (and one woman) show got under way, I was surprised at the warm and humorous opening as we meet Arthur Kipps (Julian Forsyth) and The Actor (Anthony Eden).

The mood is light as we get to know the lawyer, haunted by past events, and the young actor, employed to help his tell his sorry tale.

But the audience’s laughter soon falls quiet as the story unfolds and we learn more about the horror that has befallen the unsuspecting lawyer.

The first appearance of the ghostly woman, during a funeral scene, catches the audience unaware and sets the “egde of your seat” feeling for the rest of the play.

The story itself draws you in, assisted by some great acting and an incredibly clever and effective stage set-up.

Throughout the play, the stage becomes a lawyer’s office, graveyard, misty marshland and a desolate old house, among many other scenarios, all completely believable.

The atmosphere builds and builds, as the lawyer spends time alone at his deceased client’s house, trying to sort out the estate.

Rocking chairs move by themselves, locked doors fly open and untouched music boxes start to play.

The woman in black makes a number of appearances, often making the audience jump and gasp in shock.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying the shows was “terrifying” or “nerve-shredding” as per the posters.

However, it was unsettling, incredibly atmospheric and brilliantly acted.

The denouement sends a shiver down your spine and the tragic story stays with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

The show is on at the Futurist until Saturday.