Five hundred and forty-six days after the last performance, the Grand Opera House in York reopened last night (Monday).
And what a night it was. Drama and comedy, laughs, gasps and screams, and that was just in the stalls bar before the show.
Under the Grand Opera House booking protocols, we were given an allotted arrival time. When we got to the theatre, staff greeted us outside and checked our Covid-19 status (you can do this in various ways; I used the NHS App).
Then it was into the bar to meet and greet, before taking our seats for the first night of live theatre since 16 March 2020 – The Woman In Black, a globally renowned play with North Yorkshire origins; it premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in 1987.
This well-loved ghostly tale, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from Susan Hill’s best-selling novel, is a theatrical treat.
Excluding the apparition of the title, the play is a two-hander. And two terrific performances, from Robert Goodale and Antony Eden, kept the audience spellbound.
A young solicitor, Arthur Kipps (Goodale) is sent to Eel Marsh House, a creepy old mansion at the end of a causeway which is regularly cut off by the rising tide. He is tasked with sorting the affairs of the recently deceased owner.
But why are all the locals so jumpy about his assignment? And who is that woman he keeps seeing out of the corner of his eye?
Bounding about the stage, Goodale is an energetic presence as Kipps, whose confidence gradually ebbs away as he is confronted by his worst fears. And the versatility of Eden is impressive; he transforms himself into a range of characters with just a slump of the shoulders or a twist of the mouth.
Clever lighting and sound effects help deliver some jumpy moments, but much of the tension is built through the actors and their fearless timing.
Don’t expect to be terrified; there are some genuinely spooky moments in the play, but nothing that requires you to take safety underwear. And there are plenty of LOL moments too.
What The Woman In Black does so well is remind us why a night at the theatre is like nothing else. It’s a spiritual experience!
And members of the first-night audience – including panto stars Berwick Kaler, David Leonard and AJ Powell – all left with a goodie bag. GOH, it’s good to have you back!