Theatre review: The Woman in Black @ The Lowry, Salford

“Be prepared to jump out of your seats,” so we were told.

It was a rare, and somewhat naïve, scenario I found myself in when viewing the theatrical adaptation of The Woman in Black, which was that the story, and even the film adaptation featuring Daniel Radcliffe, had completely passed me by.

This did, however, offer me a fresh perspective on a tale I understood to be a chilling drama, but little more.

Essentially, we are presented with a play within a play, based around the events of a young Arthur Kipps, a London-based solicitor, who has been sent up north to sift through a dead client’s documents.

We are initially introduced to an old and tormented Mr Kipps, superbly portrayed by Malcolm James, who is looking to tell his nightmarish story, and has sought a young actor (Matt Connor) to portray his tale on stage.

The actor therefore takes the role of Mr Kipps, while in turn, Mr Kipps begins an array of characters, including town folk who live in close proximity to Eel Marsh House, where the primary action takes place.

The concept of the play takes a while to get going, but once the audience are comfortable with the story, it starts to get anything but, as the tricks of the horror trade are brought in and viewers invariably jump out of their seats.

And the screams do come – often followed by laughter, as is always oddly the case – through loud noises, changes in lighting, and the sudden appearances from the woman in black herself.

The phantom figure varies on the scare-ometer throughout the play. Jumping out at Mr Kipps can only get so terrifying, but include a rocking chair or the slow, tense tune of a music box, and the screams become far more real.

Ironically, the one time that had me jump was after the actor playing Mr Kipps, who soliloquises his thoughts throughout, uttered the words ‘then suddenly’ – something I should have been prepared for, but nevertheless still shook me, which can only be commendable.

For a play to feature just two speaking actors, it has to be utterly compelling, and both James and Connor deliver to a level that enables this production to prove captivating.

This play, adapated by the late Stephen Mallatratt and celebrating 25 years at the West End, must be seen for itself, and only then can you truly acknowledge the performances of the two actors – or perhaps that should be three?

The Woman in Black runs at The Lowry until Saturday.

Tickets, priced from £17, can be purchased by clicking here

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