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The Woman in Black

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
4 stars
When Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe came of big-screen age earlier 
this year in the cinematic adaptation of Susan Hill’s spookiest of 
novels, one feared that its gothic gloss might suck the life out of the 
late Stephen Mallatratt’s stage version. After more than two decades in 
the west end and ten national tours, judging by this latest encounter, 
Robin Herford’s still spine-tingling production isn’t ready to lie down 
just yet.

Mallatratt’s play finds lawyer Arthur Kipps hiring an actor to 
role-play events from years before in an attempt to exorcise ghosts 
that have haunted him since. These involve a young Kipps being packed 
off to a desolate country house to oversee a dead woman’s affairs, only 
to have the eponymous Woman transform his life. As a dense yarn of 
illigitimacy, accidental death and revenge from the grave is unveiled, 
the shocks pile on aplenty for Kipps, whether played by Julian Forsyth 
or by Antony Eden’s Actor.

This may sound terribly meta, but it is also a master-class in 
suspending disbelief. As has already been noted on these pages, fans of 
immersive theatre who think they’ve discovered the Holy Grail in 
art-house fringe spaces elsewhere could learn much from The Woman in 
Black. The box of tricks used in both are essentially the same, and go 
back a lot further.

Yet there’s more going on here than meets the eye. As Audrone Koc’s Woman 
enacts her revenge on the world, it’s as if she’s calling to account 
the moral hypocrisy of a society that robbed her of her child. As long 
as audiences enjoy being terrified, chances are she’ll be cursing them 
for several years to come.

The Herald, November 28th 2012

ends

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