Reviewed by Richard Lane
In the words of the director Michael Croome, The Woman In Black is “… a bloody good play-an absolute cracker.” And it is!! Croome’s production by the Rep of the Gothic ghost story does it justice.
Briefly, the plot concerns junior London lawyer Arthur Kipps, sent down to the gaunt and isolated Eel Marsh House on the East coast of England. He has been commissioned to tidy up the affairs of Mrs Alice Drablow who lived alone, has recently died there and carried a terrible secret to her grave.
The most fascinating element of this play is that it is actually set in whichever theatre wherever the play is being performed. In this instance, the Arts theatre. Middle-aged lawyer Kipps needs to exorcise his demons-to tell his story to his friends, of the horror that has haunted him for thirty years. So he hires a young actor to assist him enact this tale to its twisted and terrifying end.
The set is an empty stage with a handful of props to create the illusions . For mine, the set designed by the ubiquitous Laraine Wheeler and director Croome, was not dusty enough, not tatty enough. And where were the cobwebs? However that said, it still worked remarkably well.
This play relies heavily on sound and visual technology and the sound design team of Tim Freedman, David Ginter and Hugh Hunkin produced the most spectacular stereo sound effects this critic has heard in this theatre. Similarly the lighting by Wheeler, with Tech Manager Michael Whitmee was quite spine chilling. As the older Kipps and all the other roles he played, Tony Busch was superb. His tortured expression showed through from his internal horror, at the events that had so dogged his life. This was vintage Busch.
Likewise, as the actor who gets inexorably, slowly drawn in to the chilling plot, Adam Tuominen is powerful and totally submerged in his role .
The second act draws us on to its inevitable conclusion with nerve- wracking screams, frightening horses, strange macabre night noises,shadowy figures and ghostly lighting. But the dread, the fear did not quite curdle the blood of this critic as it was hoped. However,the sting in the tail at the end is a bizarre as it is frightening.
In all, a great night’s ghostly entertainment – a fine production. But be warned – it is not a play for the irresolute!