The Woman in Black

(Brisbane Arts Theatre)


Stephen Mallatratt’s play (adapted from Susan Hill’s thriller) begins with a know-it-all drama teacher who coaches an old man to act his own ghost story so he can set his past to rest. The characters begin a journey together which proves to bring them more than they expected.

It features two actors who speak (Timothy Wotherspoon and Ray Swenson) and a mute ‘Woman in Black’ (Marie-Louise Nolan). Ray Swenson does a fantastic job morphing between several different characters (although it can be difficult at times to keep track of who is whom).

As a play within a play, different accents together with the lighting effects are used well to distinguish between the two levels. The pace is initially slow, but it develops into a powerful production, well directed by John Boyce. The Woman in Black combines a rich use of sound and vibrant lighting to complement the haunted horror (and compensate for basic set, costumes and props).

The audience is lost in the gothic production as the worlds of acting and reality becomes entwined. It is a beautifully crafted ghost story that after two hours has the audience terror-struck. Much is left to the imagination, allowing a personal manipulation of the events leading to the finale: a journey of mime, pulsing lights and powerful sound effects.

The last 10 minutes are haunted with gripping terror and a vile twist as the secrets of the Woman in Black are revealed and the ghost story is brought to life.

— Holly Barrell
(Performance seen: Sat 5th April 2003)