After EGX in Birmingham I left for London to spend a few days in the city. Landed Monday evening and left Thursday Morning, leaving me only two days to enjoy myself. I spent both days in Covent Garden aka Theatre Land, a place of music, cafés, theatres and opera. I struggled the first day to find the theatre I was going to because I just couldn’t find it among so many of them.
During my stay I saw two plays, The Woman in Black and The Play that Goes Wrong. A friend recommended the first one to me some time ago, and the other I saw the poster while walking around and had to see it. Today I’ll speak of the first one.
The Woman in Black, based on the book by Susan Hill, is a story I had already seen in the Daniel Radcliffe-starred film, but while I had the book in my to-read list, I never really got around to it. But when I planned this trip, I made sure to see the play, to knock it off a London TO-DO list I’ve had for a year or so. The book tells the story from a first person perspective, the tale of what happened to the main character, Arthur Kipps, while out on an assignment and his encounter with the eponymous spectre.
The play on the other hand has Arthur Kipps as an old man, hiring an actor to help him tell the tale to an audience of those closest to him, so that he may finally put the past and his nightmares to rest. As they practice the telling, the actor takes Arthur’s part in the story and the old man plays every other character he once met. It’s a two man and a woman play, a small cast that works wonderfully. Tom and Christopher Goodwin, father and son, play the Actor and Arthur Kipps respectively and they are both superb actors. Tom’s switch from his ‘normal’ persona, the cheerful actor urging the old man to tell his tale, to his personification of the harrowed solicitor is wonderful and it kept me hooked on the performance.
Christopher Goodwin’s slow transformation from the unwilling participant in the play to one eager to finish it is exciting to see. At first he barely recites passages but with Tom’s character’s encouragement, he adopts mannerisms, accents and even different pitches to match those of the people he once met, and in doing so gives you a glimpse of these many characters, these people who shared Kipps’ tragedy.
When I went to see The Woman in Black, I sat at the second row but then realised I would block a nice old lady’s view. I’m rather bulky. So I spoke to the ushers and moved to the back as soon as the play started and remained there for the rest of the evening. This move, in my opinion, made the experience much better as at certain points the actors ‘entered’ the stage from behind me. It made the first appearance of the Woman in Black much more powerful, as she glided up to the stage from right behind me. I shivered as she passed by me.
I had never before experienced jumpscares outside of video games but The Woman in Black delivered them, and it did so exceptionally well. The superb stagecraft kept me primed and ready for them at all times, so that a sudden shriek or a door slamming made me jump and gasp like the rest of the audience.
The friend who recommended this play to me has seen it a good number of times, and I think that if I ever have the chance, I shall perhaps top their number. It is a phenomenal play and one you have to see given the chance.
Also, they sell signed copies of the novel at the theatre. So I finally picked up my copy!