REVIEW: The Woman In Black, New Theatre Royal Portsmouth, until Saturday, April 1.

Two actors create a whole world, throw us in and scare the pants off us in a remarkable theatrical tour de force which never loses its ability to thrill'¦ or chill.

The Woman In Black
The Woman In Black

The Woman In Black continues with its record breaking run in London’s West End, but has stopped off in Portsmouth this week to send a few shivers through Pompey crowds – and what a fantastic place to see the show the New Theatre Royal proves to be.

Would you dare spend a night alone there? I doubt it. It’s scary enough surrounded by hundreds of people when it’s The Woman In Black who’s treading the boards.

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Stephen Mallatratt’s ingenious stage adaptation was the starting point for Robin Herford’s clever production, but it still needs a couple of actors capable of getting us to use our own imaginations. In David Acton and Matthew Spencer, the show has got precisely the actors to draw us in.

At first, the show is all about the theatricality of it all as an ageing, completely-spooked lawyer hires a young actor to re-enact with him the terrifying events of many years before when he travelled to a lonely house and was engulfed in its horror.

But after the celebrating the staginess, Acton and Spencer take us to the very heart of the dread that grips the lawyer’s soul. They unfold it all superbly as the older man’s darkest memories slowly but surely swallow them up.

It’s not often you find yourself delighted to be sharing the auditorium with a big school party, but their shrieks were all part of the devilish fun last night in a tale which holds you vice-like until its very last twist… and beyond.

Phil Hewitt

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