The Woman in Black
Theatre Royal Bath
WHEN Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s gothicstyle horror story opened in Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1987 few, if any, of those connected to the production imagined that after it transferred to London’s West End two years later, it would still be running thirtyfour years on. Just as Salad Days, another record breaker had opened at the Bristol Old Vic as an end of term romp, so The Woman in Black was thought of as a good change of pace to the long line of Alan Ayckbourn comedies that regularly opened in the Scarborough theatre.
What singles out this horror play – like the musical Salad Day and legendary thriller The Mousetrap – compared to the thousands of other presentations, is that they are almost perfect examples of their genre. The only time that a production of The Woman in Black has failed to please its army of faithful followers, and attracted new converts, is when the production has moved away from the original simple concept. The film version does this, and as a result does not have the same impact as the stage version of the play.
Director Robin Herford and actors Robert Goodale and Antony Eden, whilst bringing a fresh view to the story, have no intention of straying from the well-trodden successful path that has served the play so well throughout its long West End run and many provincial tours. The lighting and sound input so vital in creating a sudden change of pace, still makes even those who have seen the play many times jump in their seats, are produced immaculately on cue.
If I have any complaints about the presentation, it would be that the few visions, we have of the mysterious woman in black are a little too real. It adds to the horror and mystery if the views of the lady
are so fleeting that, like the characters on stage, you have to pinch yourself in order to make sure you have not dreamt the sighting.
It is almost impossible to describe the tense atmosphere created by a cast of two, playing
many characters, so if you have yet to sample this unique mixture of gothic thrills and horror, a visit to Bath’s Theatre Royal is advised. If you are already fan you will find this production very acceptable.