Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Review: Woman in Black

"Over 7 million people have lived to tell the tale of one of the most chilling and successful theatre events ever staged." Most chilling, eh? Well, based on that statement, I ensured that I was prepared for my solo trip to see Woman in Black at the Wyvern by getting a lift there and back. There was no way I was going to walk through a dark carpark at night on my own after that! Yes, I do scare easily. I'm one of those people that will hum with my eyes shut tight and my fingers in my ears during any M. Night Shyamalan film!

Talking of movies, I've got into the habit of not watching trailers or previews, or even reading blurbs about films or plays. It's a refreshing experience to go into something blind with no expectations. Then, rather than facing the possibility of something not living up to the hype, you're able to make your own decisions. Therefore I'm almost averse to writing this review. It's difficult. I don't want you to see this play expecting to be scared and frightened. I don't want you to be looking out for the bits that make you jump. But then I guess that's like telling you not to expect to cry at Phantom of the Opera, or not to expect to laugh at Anchorman...

Were there elements of the play I didn't like? Sure. To be honest, the actual story could have been stronger. The character of Sam Toovey keeps referring to Arthur's developing acting ability as 'Irving-like', but I only thought of the writer, John Irving, and his ability to engage interest and suspense in a tale panning five decades. Stephen Mallatrat could have concentrated less on deliberately trying to make the audience jump, and perhaps more on hinting at the content of the ghost story to develop suspense. Yes, we know Arthur is seriously spooked by something, but let's have more a hint at what. Let's have him read some of the found letters earlier. Without wanting to give too much away, I think mentioning a few key elements of the incident in passing would increase the intensity of some of the main scenes.

That said, Woman in Black had the desired effect... the loud screams coming from the audience were testament to that! You can see why it's one of the most popular plays to study for GCSE. The technical crew did a sterling job and some of the visuals and scene changes were very impressive. I would like to think that the many students who were in the theatre will not only come away with a valuable theatre experience to write about, but will actually adopt some of the dramatic skills and theatrical elements in their own devised pieces. The buzz as I left the auditorium was heartening and everyone at least seemed inspired!

I believe the whole run has sold out, but contact the Wyvern Theatre for full details.

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