The Woman In Black At Nottingham Theatre Royal Review


Reviewed by Louise Edwards

Direct from over 30 years performing in London’s West End, Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt, is this week at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal as part of a nationwide tour running until June 2024.

The stage is simple with much of the props draped with fabric, creating an air of mystery.  The play is set in the theatre in the early 1950s and Arthur Kipps (played by Malcolm James) is practicing reading a story he has written that he wants to tell his family about something that happened to him when he was younger.  An experience that has literally haunted him ever since.  He has enlisted The Actor played by Mark Hawkins to help him.  The Actor attempts unsuccessfully to encourage Kipps to read the story with more enthusiasm and interest.  After a few more unsuccessful tries he decides they will act out the story together.

The tale is a ghost story which slowly builds up with tension and intrigue.  Kipps is a lawyer in London asked to attend the funeral of a recently deceased client, Mrs. Alice Drablow, and finalise her estate.  It is a long journey involving several trains before arriving in the nearest town.  On arrival he learns that just the mention of Drablow’s name sends fear reverberating and he struggles to find anyone who will take him to Eel Marsh House which is located across a causeway which cuts the house off from the mainline twice a day.  At the funeral he sees a mysterious young woman dressed in black, but funnily enough no one else can see her.

The first half of the play creates the anticipation and sets the scene with impressive acting from the two protagonists. There are a few jump scare moments but it is the second half however where things really ramp up a level.  The story unfolds with the audience captivated (and screaming) and it is hard to believe that this is the work of just two actors, playing multiple parts cleverly.

Lighting by Kevin Sleep is incredible in creating shadows and colours that remove the need for further props and set to create an incredibly haunting and sombre mood fitting for the story, sound and set.  The sound by Sebastian Frost creates the noise and power each scene needs to perfection.  Woman in Black is a fantastic example of how it is best to keep things simple on the set and work with the best in lighting and sound.

The Woman in Black is now on the GCSE syllabus so seeing this play really is essential for English and Drama students to help understanding and bring the book to life.  It is recommended for 12+ and under 14s need to be accompanied by an adult.  However it doesnt matter what age you are thrills are guaranteed when you watch this entertaining masterclass in horror theatre. Get your tickets now!

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £14.50 (booking fees may apply).

The Woman in Black is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham until Saturday 2 December 2023, for more information or to book tickets visit
or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.

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