Tuesday, April 22

The Woman in Black Click for more info

After nineteen years of being shown, it's probably not too surprising that The Woman in Black comes with so many positive recommendations. Said to be thrilling and scary it had already garnered interest in those of us who were heading off to the Fortune Theatre in Russel Street to watch the performance. We were looking forward to it.

The first disappointment was with our seating. The Fortune is small as it is and so extra capacity (read: the more cheaper seats) reaches the heavens instead of going back and we had a very good birds eye view of the stage. We were also in the company of what seemed like a legion of schoolgirls whose incessant screaming at anything and everything did a good job of killing any sense of suspense generated. But the production itself can hardly be blamed for any of that, and I guess you'd have to look past all that in order to assess the play properly.

TWIB is also different in it's tiny cast - there are only two speaking parts on the stage during the two hours or so that the performance runs for; we actually end up watching a play within a play with the two "outer" actors swapping in and out of the various characters in then "inner" play.

The stage and props reflect this set up, with the actors themselves using basic and minimal equipment to maximum effect - they literally spell out at one point how they expected the audience to use their imagination to fill the gaps (up to the point where we had to imagine a dog names Spider).

If you're confused reading all that then don't worry: it took me a while to come to terms with what was going on and where exactly I was until I picked up the relevant cues marking the respective stages in the play. Although it demonstrated the prowess and skill of the two actors it did make the whole thing less easy going than it could have been.

Apart from how TWIB was constructed, the story itself was vaguely interesting. We were being told the tale about a solicitor being sent to a creepy home in order to settle the affairs of the recently deceased lady of the house. The bulk of the plot revolves around him staying there and experiencing all manner of spooky going-ons and as such the whole thing tends to burn a bit too slowly for my liking.

But still, it was engaging enough to keep me occupied for the duration of the show and there were some genuinely spooky parts. The whole play within a play thing wasn't totally irrelevant either, although I do wonder if I would have enjoyed it more with a regular set up.

As it stands, TWIB is a different and so refreshing play to watch and it's certainly not the worst thing I've seen. It's worth watching I guess: just make sure you pick some good seats (preferably ones not next to screaming schoolgirls).

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