The Woman in Black 2023. Photo by Mark Douet

The Woman in Black is Back!

The Woman in Black is a truly chilling theatrical ghost story. This ghoulish horror is a new production that graced the Theatre Royal last week, direct from the West End. Susan Hill’s classic novel has been skillfully adapted into a captivaing two-man show and BN1 had the privilege of attending the opening night. The play perfectly delivered a spooky and eerie atmosphere through ingenious light, sound and set design as well as impressive acting in equal measure.

The new show is set 30 years after the novel ends and follows Mr Kipps (expertly played by Malcom James) who, still after so many years, is haunted and distraught by events at Eel Marsh House. Therefore, he implores the guidance of an actor (the fantastic Mark Hawkins) to help communicate his encounter to his loved ones, in the hope that this will set him free from The Woman in Black at last. His pursuit for help changes when he realises that the actor is far better at expressing his story than himself, therefore he lets the actor take full reign over his tale of woe.

The Woman in Black 2023. Photo by Mark Douet

The actor took on the role of a young Mr Kipps, while Mr Kipps was persuaded to still be in his own story, but as the other characters he met along the way to Eel Marsh House. Malcolm James (Mr Kipps) effortlessly slips between all the other characters and accents, making it feel like more than a two-man show. The clever way of retelling this story through the two characters rehearsing and preparing for ‘their performance’ to Mr Kipps family, whilst simultaneously re-enacting his past, makes it funny and sinister at the same time. As the audience watches, the rehearsals slowly start to unravel the further Mr Kipps went into his retelling of The Women In Black.

The Woman in Black 2023. Photo by Mark Douet

The production’s highly inventive lighting and sound design enhanced the whole experience. From a slither of an amber glow on the door to the nursery, or the gothic staircase backlit while a young Arthur Kipps reluctantly looks around Eel Marsh House; to the horse and carriage sound effects taking Mr Kipps to and from the isolated house. The sound design was brought to life by the outstanding performance and timing of the cast. The set changes made by Mr Kipps and the actor whilst rehearsing were not only perfectly performed, but also displayed a lot of creativity from the production team to come up with such a variety of different ways to use a minimalistic set. 

The Theatre Royal is a glorious Grade II* listed building and one of the oldest theatres in the country. On a particularly cold night in winter, it was the perfect setting for this exceptional horror. If it’s thrills and chills you’re after, then this is the play for you, and if you scare easily bring your mum, like i did. 

The play ran from Tue 27 Feb – Sat 2 Mar in Brighton, tickets are still available here for other venues across South England.

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