Review: The Woman in Black at Cambridge Arts Theatre
It had been around a year and a half since I'd last seen a play at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, and it was great to be back!
And what a production to come back to: The Woman in Black, one of the West End's longest-running plays which was also made into a movie in 2012 starring Daniel Radcliffe, having previously been released as a television film in 1989.
An acclaimed ghost story by author Susan Hill, this highly successful stage adaptation was written by the late Stephen Mallatratt and directed by Robin Herford, who also directed the original cast in 1987.
The story involves a lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of a woman in black. He elicits, in the theatre version, the help of a sceptical young actor to help him tell his story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul.
A vast open space was created at the Arts Theatre, with the front row being removed for extra staging, which all helped add to the foreboding atmosphere and overall feeling that something truly terrifying was about to occur. Right from the start, there are moments that make you jump - but nothing compared to what is to come...
With an air of Damien Lewis and Rik Mayall about him, Anthony Eden is excellent as the young actor brought in to help Arthur Kipps (Robert Goodale, also outstanding) tell his story some 60 years after the events were alleged to have taken place.
What starts out as quite a light-hearted piece with some humorous moments gradually descends into dark Victorian horror - the haunted house, surrounding misty marshlands and howling winds vividly recreated - which I have to say was the most frightening play I have ever seen (admittedly, I haven't seen that many in this particular genre).
There are some moments that really chill you to the bone - I had to look away at times and, even as I write this, I can feel the hairs standing up on my arms as I recall the alarming scenes I witnessed.
If you're looking for family-friendly entertainment to celebrate the return of live theatre, this is definitely not for you - but if you're looking to see a cracking version of one of the best horror plays of the last 50 years, head down to the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Just don't say I didn't warn you!
The Woman in Black runs at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, June 26 and is suitable for 12+. For more information, visit cambridgeartstheatre.com.