Review: The Woman in Black, Fortune Theatre

The Woman in Black continues to pack ’em into the Fortune Theatre but can it really justify its continued casting practices?

“I don’t believe in ghosts”

I got to thinking there’s something a little ironic about the title The Woman in Black whilst watching it this weekend. I’ve not been able to find a comprehensive list of those who have acted in it but I can’t find reference to a single person of colour or woman who has played in either of the main roles.

For a play so firmly about the nature and power of storytelling, it feels a little disappointing that the production has rested on the laurels of being a classic. The choice not to expand what is meant by such a term as ‘classic’ and who can tell such ‘classic’ stories feels like a real missed opportunity.

All the more so, given that Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel is still packing out the Fortune Theatre. If shows like this can’t lead the way in addressing such huge systemic issues, then can we ever really hope for effective much-needed change?

As for Robin Herford’s production itself, it remains a masterclass in simplicity. The depths of Michael Holt’s design slowly revealing themselves, Gareth Owen’s sound design (from Rob Mead’s original) holds the audience in the palm of its wonderfully manipulative hand, it really is a scream.

And absolutely no disrespect to Terence Wilton and James Byng who currently tell this ghost story so well, it just feels like the time is now is now to expand The Woman in Black’s horizon.

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Photo: Mark Douet
The Woman in Black is currently booking at the Fortune Theatre until 26th January 2019

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