Grand Opera House York captures the chill that can be felt this week, as it welcomes the gripping The Woman in Black to their stage.
A show which was first performed just a stone’s throw away at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough back in 1987, now takes itself on another sellout UK tour.
And what better place to hold this eerie telling, adapted from the Susan Hill novel, than in a theatre that holds so many traditional architectural features, enabling us the audience to be transported back in time as soon as the first footsteps could be heard from onstage.
The Woman in Black is at the Grand Opera House from Tuesday 30 January to Saturday 3 February.
Suspense wraps itself around every inch of this production, relying on the audience’s anticipation to play just as much a vital role as the two (or should I say three) actors who share the stage – and so it did, with many an audience member leaving with an elevated heart rate and a state of nervousness eagerly left behind.
The Woman in Black adapted by Stephen Mallatratt has it all: jump-scares, anxiety-inducing build up, and lighting and sound effects that only increase the audience’s fear throughout. There is something that enables everyone to be caught off guard at least once throughout the play.
Commanding this spectacle in front of the curtains is Malcolm James (Arthur Kipps) and Mark Hawkins (The Actor), who were superb in their performances.
James played a range of characters exceptionally, with clear definition between each, without the use of drastic costume changes or special effects – which can only be a testament to his talent and skill. It was especially captivating to watch him transform from the unenthused Kipps we meet at the slow start of the play declaring ‘I am not an actor’, to the transformation where he defined exactly what an actor should aspire to be.
Hawkins was our eager thespian ready to turn the words on a page into art and so he did; he single handedly arose tension from still silence and summoned gasps from the audience members with something as seemingly insignificant as one small movement. This talent accompanied by well designed sound and lighting cues by Kevin Sleep and Sebastian Frost secured the success of this production.
And I cannot successfully review this play without the mention of the silent star ‘The Woman in Black’ herself, who may live on through the nightmares of some of last night’s theatre-goers. Whilst her legendary presence throughout is fearfully awaited, I did feel she appeared so regularly that the impact of her existence did begin to wear, and that perhaps less is truly more when it comes to a classic tale such as this.
Nevertheless, when screams can be heard echoing around the auditorium, individuals noticeably jumping from their chairs and school groups stunned into silence, well it can only mean one thing…The Woman in Black is just as much a success now as it was when first performed 36 years ago.
I am certain that the light on this show and Arthur Kipps’ candlelight will not be dimming anytime soon.
The Woman in Black is at the Grand Opera House York until Saturday 3 February. Tickets start from £13 and are available via the theatre website.