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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs

The Woman in Black

Liverpool Playhouse
May 31 – June 5

Author: Stephen Mallatratt from the novel by Susan Hill
Director: Robin Hereford
Producer: PW Productions Ltd.
Cast: Robert Demeger, Peter Bramhill

Running Time: 2hrs 30 mins

The Woman in Black promotional image

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website


Legendary is a status not lightly offered to theatre productions, but The Woman in Black is certainly deserving of that title. Now in its 21st year at the Fortune Theatre in the West End of London and having been translated into 12 languages and seen in 41 countries, legendary it certainly is.

It is with some trepidation that the audience file into the auditorium such is the play’s reputation for scaring the living daylights out of all who see it, and judging by the reaction of the packed house, few left disappointed.

 

What makes the play special is the way in which all of the simmering ingredients come to the boil in a whole series of bangs, booms and screams that get the heart pounding and the clever part is that is all so minimalist.  The stage, but for a wicker hamper, a coat rack, a door to the right and some buckets is virtually empty.

The story, told through the eyes of an aging solicitor, Mr. Kipps, desperate to have his terror exorcised by recounting his experiences through an accomplished Actor. When younger, Kipps is sent to wind up the affairs of a recently deceased woman who had led a reclusive life in a remote and mysterious house. Kipps discovers he has to execute his task without any help from the locals who will not approach the house because they believe the house is cursed.

It is extraordinary that with the most basic props, some tremendously eerie lighting and few sound effects can illicit such reactions, yet it is all managed thanks to the melancholic atmosphere that inhibits every pore of the piece. All of which is underlined by the fine performances of Robert Demeger as Kipps and whole gamut of other characters, whose near faultless delivery and dour countenance fit the bill perfectly, and Peter Bramhill as The Actor and Young Kipps who exudes youthful naivety and, finally, terror quite superbly.
It also helps when the theatre itself is as intimate as The Playhouse, as even the slightest gasp that escapes is bound to set the pulses racing still faster.

An excellent night’s entertainment and, for once, the only let down is the weather as rather than emerging into a howling storm on a cold winter’s night, the audience are instead released into a beautiful balmy evening bathed in sunshine. Ah well, you can’t have everything.

Chris High

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website
www.everymanplayhouse.com


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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