Hello, my name is Katy and I’m the Biggest Wimp of All Time. And yes, that’s an official title.
I don’t do scary films (I managed about 2.68 minutes of Saw). I don’t watch psychological thrillers (Identity traumatised me as a 13 year-old). Horror stories scare the bejesus out of me (I have yet to finish reading Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw… I started it 6 years ago).
So when Official Theatre invited me to join them on a visit to see The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre, I did something very silly.
I forgot the fact that it’s the scariest stage show of all time. I ignored the fact that people have been telling me chilling stories about it since I first started getting into theatre a whole 13 years ago. I neglected to remember that I nearly peed my pants watching the trailer for the Daniel Radcliffe film adaptation.
And I said yes.
Because of course I did.
Laura and I met up for dinner and drinks first.
Because if you’re going to die at the hands of a ghost lady, then you might as well do it with a belly full of red wine and guacamole. Am I right?
We went to Cafe Pacifico, which is right next to Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden.
I had the chicken quesadilla, which was nice, but not as good as the one I had at El Patron. Could’ve done with more cheese!
Laura went for the pork belly tacos which looked AMAZING. They bring all the fillings out in individual bowls and then you make them yourself with whatever you fancy. The pork looked sticky and tender and sooo good.
We also got a portion of guacamole to share between us which was DIVINE. I could’ve just eaten a whole bowl of that with a spoon to be honest.
I really liked the restaurant’s decor, really warm and fun and welcoming, and it had a really nice buzzy vibe going on which was great.
Definitely going on my list of restaurants to go back to!
Guys. I was shaking before we’d even sat down.
I think one of the most interesting things about Woman in Black is how much it’s built on anticipation and already-knowing-something-bad-is-going-to-happen.
Yeah the story is kind of freaky, but definitely the smartest and most impressive thing about this play is that everything about it is so SMALL.
There are no huge special effects, no blood, no gore, no axes or people flying through the air. Just two men, on an almost empty stage, telling a story with a few sound effects.
And occasionally there’s a creepy lady in a black veil, who moves like a freaking ninja and makes the entire audience scream.
But everything else? Smoke and mirrors. (Literally. SO MUCH SMOKE.)
The air-conditioning is purposely put on high, so everyone is slightly chilly and tense anyway, and there are amazing moments of silence as well.
The clock ticks, you can almost hear a pin drop, and just know that something awful is about to happen…
And then one of the actors will accidentally kick a metal bucket across the stage and you’ll physically jump a foot in the air and nearly burst into tears.
(Not that I did that, of course. Nope. Not at all.)
The set is almost ridiculously simple.
It’s basically just an empty stage with minimal props that the audience are expected to imagine as other things. So a wicker basket becomes a bed, then a desk and then a horse and carriage.
There’s a BRILLIANT moment involving an imaginary dog, which I really enjoyed as well.
Actually, there’s a lot that I enjoyed about it. Sure, I had my eyes closed for all the scary bits. But before the scariness, there’s a whole lot of funny that I was not expecting at all.
Julian Forsythe and Antony Eden are old hands at this show. They played the roles on the West End in 2012, the went on to do the UK tour and now they’re back in London again.
They have a really great on-stage relationship and are both absolutely fantastic actors.
I especially enjoyed Forsythe’s performance as old man Kipps, but Eden is also perfect as the young, over-enthusiastic actor.
He manages to shine an almost mirror-like reflection of what Kipps must have been like as a young man, which works fantastically to blur the lines of what’s real and what isn’t.
The Woman herself is never mentioned by name. You never know who is playing her. There is no bow from her at the end of the play. Just an eerie face shining from behind a gauze curtain.
She’s actually barely ever on stage. She makes fleeting appearances but, most of the time, the action is built around spookily moving furniture, doors that bang closed on their own, freaky sound effects and a tendency for our imaginations to get carried away with us.
And that’s where the magic of The Woman in Black lies.
A lot of people my age have already seen this, because it’s part of the GCSE curriculum. But if you haven’t yet, I really highly recommend it.
Yes, it’s scary. Like really sweary scary (my language was APPALLING!).
I had my eyes closed for a good half of it and very nearly left at the interval because I was on the verge of tears (thank you Rebecca and Laura for convincing me to stay!)
I had to go round to Gary’s house after it had finished because there was NO way I was going home to an empty house. But I’m still so glad I went.
There are very very VERY few theatre pieces in the world that will affect you as much as this one will.
With a film or a TV show, you can just close your eyes, mute the sound or even just change the channel. But there’s something really special about being completely immersed in the story, of feeling all your senses come alive.
It’s an experience I’m not likely to forget soon.
And one that even I, The Biggest Wimp of All Time, would definitely recommend.
(If you’re interested in reading a bit more about how the show came about, have a read of this ace article from The Guardian. I found it really interesting!)
*I was gifted my ticket to The Woman in Black by the lovely folk over at Official Theatre.
As always, if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t blog it! :)
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