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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Review of The Woman in Black at The Lowry, Manchester

I was pretty nonchalent about seeing The Woman in Black at The Lowry on Thursday night. True, I'm not known for my high threshold when it comes to all things scary: my husband still teases me for physically jumping off the sofa when the phone rings in Signs - itself the least scary film ever (cue lots of sarcastic mutterings of "oh no! It's the phone monster! Ooooooooo...." etc etc), and I'm currently reading Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger and frankly finding it a bit much.

Still, I've read the Susan Hill novel on which the play is based, and didn't find it frightening in the least, so I ignored the fact that a work colleague who had seen the play before physically paled when I mentioned I was going ("oh - I wouldn't be able to watch that again" she stammered as the blood drained from her face) and trotted off to the theatre for a fine old time.

The evening started well with dinner at Lime and a big fat glass of Sauvignon.

Then things started to go wrong. The gentleman who showed us to our seats chuckled slightly when he saw we were sitting in the very middle of the front row, and informed us that he wouldn't have chosen to sit there in a voice that implied that very bad things indeed might happen to us as a result of our hapless seat choice.

He wasn't kidding. The first half hour of the play is rather dreary - as the novel is so short, a certain amount of padding has been added to the start to make the story work on stage, involving a tiresome routine between an actor and a man who wishes his story to be told. I spent a good portion of this part pondering what flavour ice-cream to have at the interval.

Once the story gets going however, the play is little short of terrifying. The plot is a simple one - a solicitor is sent to sort through the papers of a deceased client in a big old spooky house - and the events that occur are the predictable thuds and bumps of a traditional ghost story. The fact that you can see it all coming doesn't make it any less scary though, particularly when sitting right at the front in a fog of dry ice. Even my husband flinched on a number of occasions, although he does of course deny this whole-heartedly in the cold light of day.

The Woman in Black must be on the school syllabus at the moment, as the theatre was packed full of teenagers affecting boredom at the sheer lameness of having to go and watch a play. These same teenagers then spent much of the next two hours screaming in an increasingly hysterical way, and emerged at the end looking distinctly green around the gills. Mwa ha ha.

The play has now moved on from The Lowry, but if you get a chance to see it, go. Would I go and see it again? Not a chance.

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