Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill @ The Regent

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If you enjoy your spine being tingled or your goosebumps being raised, then the latest production at The Regent Theatre in Hanley will be right down your dark alley.

“The Woman in Black” is adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from a successful novel by Susan Hill. In the form of a play within a play it tells the mysterious story of Arthur Kipps (Robert Goodale) and an encounter that he had some thirty years prior to the opening of the play. Kipps wants his story to be told and, unable to do it properly himself he employs “The Actor” (Antony Eden) to tell it for him.

Set in a supposedly empty theatre, The Actor becomes the young Kipps whilst Goodale excels in playing all the other parts in the tale.

Kipps is a solicitor and is asked to travel to the remote coastal village of Crythin Gifford to deal with the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. At the funeral of Alice, Kipps sees a woman dressed in black and apparently suffering from a wasting disease. Alice lived alone in the isolated Eel Marsh House, and when Kipps visits there in order to sort out Alice’s papers he encounters the woman again. None of the locals will help Kipps in his task, believing that the house is cursed.

As the action progresses, we learn the reason why the locals believe that the house is cursed and what happens to the children of those who encounter the Woman in Black.

This is a tale full of suspense and surprises which kept the first night audience at the Regent on the edge of their seats and a few of them jumping out of them. The production is very clever in that, with a few basic props, along with excellent lighting, sound effects and judicious use of dry ice it leaves much to the imagination of the audience.

A special word too for the two actors (three if one includes the brief appearances of the uncredited Woman in Black) who do an excellent job to keep the rapt attention of the audience throughout. If I have one minor criticism it is that at times Goodale needs to project a little more at times in order to be heard at the back of the auditorium.

The fact that this is as an adaptation from a novel does sometimes show through in the wordier passages, especially in the second act but a play that is second only to The Mousetrap in the length of its run as a non-musical on the West End Stage must be doing so much that is right.

As live theatre recovers from being closed for so long get along to The Regent and see why it has been so successful. One word of warning when you go, take a jumper or a coat as the theatre air conditioning was left on during opening night as an anti-Covid measure (or maybe to add atmosphere……)

“The Woman in Black” runs at the Regent Theatre, Piccadilly, Hanley until Saturday, October 2nd

Tel 0844 871 7615 for tickets.