The Woman in Black - Alexandra Theatre - Birmingham Theatre Review

The Woman in Black - Alexandra Theatre - Birmingham Theatre Review

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Posted 2024-02-07 by Andy Colemanfollow

Tue 06 Feb 2024 - Sat 10 Feb 2024

The Alexandra in Birmingham currently seems to be the place to be for chills and thrills.

Last month, the theatre hosted an edge-of-the-seat production of the smash hit supernatural drama 2:22 A Ghost Story , and now, until February 10, it is presenting The Woman in Black which, for my money, is even scarier and more disturbing.

Chills: Mark Hawkins and Malcolm James in The Woman in Black. Pic: Mark Douet

This adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel is a play within a play. It takes place in a theatre in the early 1950s, with Arthur Kipps (Malcolm James) being coached by a young actor (Mark Hawkins) in the art of convincingly retelling his experiences of encountering a ghostly apparition 30 years earlier.

Using minimal props, The Actor adopts the role of Arthur Kipps to recreate Kipps’ story, with Kipps himself taking the guise of several different characters he had encountered along the way.

It’s a slow-burner, and during the first half there are, times when you wonder where the story is going. There were also some sound issues which occasionally made the dialogue difficult to hear. However, it all kicks off in the second half, with moments of spine-chilling terror – there were plenty of screams from the packed auditorium!

Thrills: Mark Hawkins and Malcolm James in The Woman in Black. Pic: Mark Douet

Walsall-born Malcolm James, returning to the role of Arthur Kipps after playing him on a UK tour in 2014/15 and at London’s Fortune Theatre in 2016, and Mark Hawkins, are fantastic, tackling the word-heavy script – and moving the props around – with aplomb. They also provide some much-appreciated humour: without giving too much away, at one point an invisible dog makes an appearance (so to speak), which paves the way for some impressive miming by James and Hawkins.

Spine-chilling: Mark Hawkins in The Woman in Black. Pic: Mark Douet

The Woman in Black has been a mainstay in the West End for over 30 years, and it’s easy to see why. The adaptation by Stephen Mallatratt is imaginative and innovative, and addsan extra element lacking in the 2012 film version which starred Daniel Radcliffe. The lighting, designed by Kevin Sleep, is also impressive, signalling when the show switches from ‘the present day’ to the ‘play within a play’, and contributing greatly to the spooky atmosphere.

My advice is to buy a ticket and prepare to be scared.




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277396 - 2024-02-07 12:03:29

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