Secretly we all loved to be a little bit scared every now and then and few stage shows have been proven to be as pant-wettingly effective as The Woman in Black.
“What is really great about a ghost story is you know that it can’t really be real but there’s a part of your mind going ‘but is it?’,” actor Matthew Spencer told us ahead of his starring role in the show in Richmond and Bromley.
“I think it is why you sit around a campfire or sit around your bedroom with your torches on when you’re a kid. It’s a lot of fun to creep out your mates, and creep out the audience in this case.”
The Woman in Black is the West End’s second longest running show after The Mouse Trap. Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1983 ghost story has terrified thousands of theatregoers with nothing more than two actors on stage, a handful of props and some lo-fi effects.
Spencer will play The Actor opposite David Acton’s Arthur Kipps at Richmond Theatre from September 20 to 24 and the Churchill Theatre in Bromley from April 3 to 8 next year and, for him, part of the joy is the terrified reactions from beyond the stage.
He said: “It is extraordinarily satisfying to hear the screams and yelps in the audience, maybe that makes me a sadist or something.
“When I saw it a decade ago, I do remember coming out having been quite scared.
“I would like to think myself quite hardened to that, knowing the insides and workings of how theatre works. I thought I would come out and be fine. But I did come out quite jumpy and quite scared.
“It is really down to the director and the writer in the first place, structuring something that starts out quite light-hearted and funny, hopefully, and you are put into a situation where you think ‘I’m alright here, I thought it was supposed to be scary’ and it slowly ratchets it up.
“It is very satisfying when you get people on side.
“The louder the laughs are at the beginning, the louder the screams are later on, which is quite exciting.”
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