“The Woman in Black” review

The Woman in Black Tour 2023/24by Susan Hill adapted by Stephen MallatrattCastMALCOLM JAMESArthur KippsMARK HAWKINSThe Actor


The Woman in Black. The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham.


The whole audience scream in terror.

That’s not a line from the play, it’s what actually happens. Several times. 

The Woman in Black stated out as a novel. Written by Susan Hill it was billed as “a ghost story’, and that’s exactly what it is – a good old fashioned ghost story. Released in 1983, it was adapted into a TV film in 1989 and of course a cinema film in 2012. However, it was first adapted as a play by Stephen Mallatratt in 1987 which then opened in the West End in 1989 where it became the second longest running play ever (only second to The Mousetrap). Closing last year it ran for an amazing 13,232 performances.

For the stage play we meet the central character Arthur Kipps years later, where he approaches a young actor as he wants to share his story on stage as “it must be told”. The actor agrees to help and steps in to play Arthur whilst the real Arthur plays all the other characters. It therefore becomes a “play within a play”.

Young Kipps is a lawyer, and he is called upon to settle the estate of a recently deceased reclusive widow. He has to travel to a small coastal town in the north east. There is a mysterious air about the whole town and residents. He is taken by coach and trap to the late widow’s home – the desolate and secluded Eel Marsh House – which can only be accessed by a causeway. At high tide it is completely cut off from the mainland and is surrounded by marshes.

At the widow’s funeral Kipps sees a “woman in black”. And there it begins. Who is she?

No spoilers here incase you haven’t seen it but suffice to say you’re in for a bumpy night! (in fact you might not sleep afterwards!)

The beauty of this piece is there’s no real set as such, there’s only two actors, it simply relies on the piece itself. The use of prop, sound effects, and above all imagination is is so effective. It’s hugely atmospheric and you could cut the tension with a knife. It’s a masterpiece in storytelling.

The two actors are fantastic: Malcolm James as (the older) Kipps and Mark Hawkins as the actor.

So far this play has been seen by over 7 million people. Im glad I’m one of them.

5 stars. The original, and the best.


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