The theatre managers certainly demonstrated their ability to do a lot with a little, creating an atmosphere that was both haunting and captivating.
The minimalistic stage setup allowed the audience to delve into their imagination, immersing themselves in the gloomy and dark world the play intended to portray.
The narrative structure of the play was fascinating. The story unfolds as lawyer Arther Kipps recounts his chilling encounter with the Woman in Black, presenting it to another actor who seeks to dramatize the tale.
This clever approach not only engaged the audience but also provided a meta-commentary on the nature of storytelling itself.
The play occasionally broke the fourth wall, blurring the boundaries whether you were watching the actor perform the play or whether you were watching the original story unfold.
A horrible twist at the end of the play takes the story to another uncomfortable level.
You only ever see three actors on stage – Arthur Kipps who is haunted by the curse of the woman in black, The Actor who is eager to tell his tale and the mysterious Woman in Black (who is quite horrific looking at one point).
Mark Hawkins initially portrayed The Actor in The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre and The Madinat Theatre. His diverse theatrical portfolio includes performances in The Railway Children at Kings Cross Theatre, Julius Caesar at The Globe, Lady Chatterley’s Lover during its UK tour, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on the international stage.
Mark is also a Richmond local and a well-loved member of the box office team.
Steve Joyce, Theatre Manager at Richmond Theatre, said: “I know I speak for all of Team Richmond when I say that we are incredibly excited to see Mark perform in this iconic show in our beautiful theatre. Richmond audiences will most likely have met Mark during his time behind our Box Office, and I hope they will come along to see him step out onto centre stage. We are very proud and will be cheering him on every single night!”
Malcolm James reprises his role in “The Woman in Black” after portraying Arthur Kipps during a UK Tour and later at the Fortune Theatre. His notable appearances in the West End also encompass performances in productions such as “The Mousetrap” at St. Martin’s Theatre and “Volpone” at the National Theatre.
Malcolm plays Arthur – and Arthur plays multiple roles throughout the performances. He executed these crazy switch arounds flawlessly.
The creative decision to keep things simple made perfect sense in the context of the story, emphasizing the power of suggestion and imagination as well as allowing the audience to focus on the narrative and the performances.
The use of lighting, props, and stage effects was nothing short of genius. The strategic play with light and shadows created an ominous ambiance, and at one point, a burst of smoke enveloped the entire audience.
This moment was particularly memorable, leaving us feeling as if we were wandering through the horrible, haunted marsh which added a level of intensity and fear that lingered throughout the performance.
I couldn’t help but feel a sense of unease, looking behind me multiple times during the show, half expecting the Woman in Black to materialize alongside the audience.
“The Woman in Black” is a testament to the power of minimalism in theatre.
It demonstrates how a carefully crafted narrative, coupled with strategic staging and exceptional performances, can evoke fear and captivate an audience without relying on extravagant sets or elaborate costumes.
A lot of the audience were actually students visiting on a school/college trip and I can understand why this show is a perfect case study for them.
While the first half had a slow start, the second half compensated with escalating scares and tension.
Richmond Theatre itself, with its stunning architecture, provided an enchanting backdrop to the evening.
“The Woman in Black” at Richmond Theatre is a must-see for those who appreciate the art of storytelling, masterful performances, and the ability to create a spine-chilling atmosphere with minimalistic elements.
Although I wouldn’t categorize it as the most impressive show I’ve ever seen, the combination of local talent, creative stagecraft, and the historic venue makes it a unique and memorable theatrical experience.
The show runs at Richmond Theatre from November 14 until November 18.