Review: Woman in Black, Lyceum Theatre

If you’re planning to watch ‘Woman in Black’ and are expecting a West End spectacular you may well be disappointed, writes Wendy Martin.

Woman in Black, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre - 7-12 October
Woman in Black, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre - 7-12 October

But don’t be put off; this unsettling and atmospheric ghost story is a celebration of theatre and its ability to take you on a journey into your own imagination.

The story is that of Arthur Kipps, a solicitor tasked with visiting a remote house to attend a funeral and to wrap up the estate of the deceased. His experience has left him traumatised and, in an effort to put the past behind him, Kipps employs an actor to help him tell his tale. The play begins slowly and without show or flourish, with minimal set and understated performances.

Some gentle comedic moments help maintain interest as we are introduced to the central characters and to the mechanism of the play within a play. Robert Goodale and Daniel Easton successfully take on the arduous responsibility of playing Kipps and the Actor in this two man show, taking the audience with them as they delve deeper into the mystery surrounding Eel Marsh House and the ghost of the Woman in Black. It is not the acting alone, however, which creates the tension and suspense which grips the audience.

The layers of staging, lighting, sound and other effects are used to powerfully stimulate the audience’s imagination, so we too are swept into the mists on the marsh alongside Kipps and we too are present as the horrors of the fayre are revealed. Through the combined magic of acting and theatrical effects, though we often see nothing, we imagine it all. So is ‘The Woman in Black’ a horror story? I would say it is something better; a good old-fashioned ghost story that creeps up on you, makes you jump and sends shivers down your spine.

With Halloween approaching there’s perhaps no better time to check it out!