Grand Opera House York – until 18 September 2021
Reviewed by Marcus Richardson
The Woman in Black is a story most of us are familiar with, after studying the book by Susan Hill at school or watching the film starring Daniel Radcliffe. The play of the same tale has been a modern theatre staple and the most iconic piece of horror within theatre.
The play heralded the return of the Grand Opera House in York, which is later than some in the reopening of theatres across the UK, once lockdown restrictions were lifted. There was a sense of joy about the theatre, a buzz in the air, even though what we were about to watch was frightfully fearsome.
The play, which is set as a rehearsal between a haunted Arthur Kipps (Robert Goodall), who doesn’t want to perform but merely tell his tale, in the hopes that he can leave the ghosts of Eel Marsh House in the past, and The Actor (Antony Eden), who has come to help Mr. Kipps in delivering his story. Goodall opens the play with an awfully drab and internal reading of his story. As the tale is told, which starts out pretty innocuous, turns out to what we do get, a spine-chilling story.
Eden, as well as appearing as The Actor, takes on the role of the young Arthur Kipps and Goodall plays all the other characters in the story. Eden takes the horror and gives us horror and takes the comedy and gives us comedy. He does a good job of delivering the fear with the audience experiencing it with him. Goodall works in a much more understated way, but the arch of being a flat performer to then taking on multiple roles with such vigour is pleasing to watch. Some characters made us laugh and some made us anxious, with the tales of the Woman in Black.
The comical aspect of the play really stood out in this performance. I really loved this as one moment you were laughing and the next you would be jumping in your seat, as the woman haunts the stage. Constantly switching between being immersed into the dark story and then being back into the rehearsal, worked well, as the actors did a good job of shifting between the two. It goes without mentioning that the two did such a terror-iffic job of working the stage with just the 2(?) of them and performing the two-hour play.
I love horror and I love theatre, bringing the two together always makes a beautiful relationship, The Woman in Black is a perfect marriage of the two. I believe that every theatregoer should go and see this show.
It is at the Grand Opera House in York until the 18th of September. With a huge welcome back to the stage for the theatre, it’s great to another live theatre venue in York.