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REVIEW: The Woman in Black (UK Tour, Glasgow 2024)

Updated: Mar 29

26 March 2024

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Woman in Black UK Tour 2024

The Woman in Black play celebrates its 35th birthday this year. Running in London’s West End since 1989, it's the UK's second longest ever running stage play, and was even turned into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe. Based on the novel by Susan Hill (first published in 1983) the play of the chilling ghost story has been seen by over 7 million people in the UK.


This adaptation of The Woman in Black from Playwright Stephen Mallatratt takes place in a theatre in the early 1950's.


Not just any theatre - but the theatre we are sitting in (gulp.)


Mark Hawkins in The Woman in Black. Credit: Mark Douet

Arthur Kipps (Malcolm James) hires a young actor (Mark Hawkins) to help him tell his story in the hopes of finally exorcising a fear that has gripped him for many years. As Malcolm and The Actor act out his play, we find ourselves with a story within a story within a story.


The first 10 - 15 minutes are set up around this premise, and honestly it feels like the play takes a while to get going as we watch The Actor repeatedly correct Mr Kipp's performance. But I'm an experienced theatre goer; I know there will be a reason for this complex and seemingly mundane introduction to the core story... And there is! So be patient, sit back, enjoy and pay attention! The terror comes soon enough.


The heart of the story sees Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer, travel to a remote village and the even more remote home of a client to put her papers in order. Eel Marsh House sits isolated at the end of a mist covered causeway, and it's sole resident has recently died. As Arthur works alone in the creepy house he begins to hear things, see things and... is that a woman dressed in black?!


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

The Woman in Black is a slow burn at first but the time taken to set the scene more than pays off. Once the tension starts to rise, a disquieting atmosphere fills the theatre and does not let up for the next 100 minutes or so.


The deceptively simple set relies heavily on expert lighting (both fixed and handheld) to create dark shadows and spooky corners, and keeps the audience on their toes wondering where to look. Don't dare look away for a second!


The fantastic double-header cast of James and Hawkins make great use of lamps, torches and simple props so that a large wicker basket becomes a desk, a train carriage, a horse and cart. Their skill helps the audience to imagine every scene, every setting and it makes you realise just what can be achieved with relatively little. Nothing else is needed here - it works brilliantly.


With a relatively short run time of just over 2 hours (including interval) The Woman in Black tells its story quickly but completely. The book, the direction, the performances are all as tight as can be. There are no unnecessary side stories or padding. Every line counts.


Equally as important are the anxiety-inducing periods of dreadful silence. And so the frights, when they come, are impactful and penetrating.


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

This new adaptation of The Woman in Black is genuinely frightening. I don't think I've ever been as a scared in a theatre as I was last night. I've seen the play and read the novel previously; and I was surrounded by 2000 other people! But yet, so cleverly does this production use dark and light, sound and silence to build the tension, I was on edge for the whole show. (Thank you!)


A victorian ghost story it may be, but old fashioned ghosts are still ghosts and this one is vengeful.


⭐⭐⭐⭐


⚠️ The Woman in Black: Age guidance 12+ but really, I wouldn't take kids to this. Grown adults beside me were actually screaming. Use your own judgement.


📅 The Woman in Black plays Glasgow Theatre Royal from Tuesday 26 to Saturday 30 March (jump to ticket info)


🎟️ Throughout the production’s run in the West End and during its many tours the producer has been determined to keep ticket prices within the range of students and young people. This policy will continue in whatever form the play and production take in the future.


⚠️  The Woman in Black sensory info: Harmless stage smoke and sudden, loud sound effects are used in the production.


📸 Production photos: Mark Douet




 

The Woman in Black tickets and dates


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🎟️ Throughout the production’s run in the West End and during its many tours the producer has been determined to keep ticket prices within the range of students and young people. This policy will continue in whatever form the play and production take in the future.


Indeed tickets in Glasgow start from £13! (plus fees)


Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Tue 26 – Sat 30 March 2024

Tues-Sat: 7:30pm

Wed & Sat: 2:30pm


Milton Keynes Theatre

Tue 2 Apr - Sat 6 Apr 2024


The Woman in Black UK Tour 2024


 

REVIEW: The Woman in Black (UK Tour, Glasgow 2024)


🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange for my time and for writing this review. Neither the venue nor show has a say in what I write. I'm completely independent and review invites do not have any impact on my analysis or star ratings.



📸 Find Lisa in the Theatre on Instagram for more photos and videos.


Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.

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