Have no fear. It may be only a week before the DVD and Blu-Ray release of what by many accounts is a below par sequel to Hammer's big-screen take on Susan Hill's 1983 gothic novel, but audiences may prefer instead to remain faithful to Robin Herford's production of Stephen Mallatratt's evergreen stage version. Touring for the umpteenth time in parallel with the show's ongoing West End run which began a quarter of a century ago, one of the spine-tingling joys of the piece is just how much Mallatratt and Herford strip things back to a form of poor theatre now being revisited by a multitude of DIY fringe troupes.
Only a dressing up box, a couple of chairs and a gauze draping the back of the stage are in evidence as the uptight Arthur Kipps attempts to bring to life the story which has haunted him for decades. Having hired a dashing young actor to play his younger self, Kipps plays all the other parts as his other half takes up residence in a dilapidated old house where the ghost of a tortured young woman is in residence.
The audience are lulled into a false sense of security before actors Malcolm James as Kipps and Matt Connor's Actor become party to an at times genuinely terrifying box of tricks, with light, shade and scarifying volume in abundance. As thrilling as this remains, beyond the cries and screams, there's something here too about the warped nature of Victorian values and the misery they caused in the name of deluded morality. The last face witnessed onstage suggests they are values that linger still.
The Herald, April 16th 2015