Presented by Adelaide Repertory Theatre Inc
Reviewed Friday 25 June 2010
Venue: ARTS Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 26 June & 1, 2, 3 July at 8pm; 27 June at 4pm; 30 June at 6.30pm; 3 July at 2pm
Duration: 2 hours 30 mins
Tickets: $20.50/conc $15.50
Bookings: Phone 8212 5777 or email: [email protected] or through BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au
The Woman in Black is perhaps the longest ghost story ever told, not from bad storytelling but from the enormous success of Stephen Mallatratt’s stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s gothic horror novel. It has been running 21 consecutive years on London’s West End and its popularity is yet to wane.
Locally, the Adelaide Rep brings all the atmospheric horror of the play to the Arts Theatre in a chilling winter’s tale of junior solicitor Arthur Kipps, sent to Eel Marsh House to attend to the estate of the late Mrs Alice Drablow. At the funeral and increasingly afterwards, Kipps is visited by a mysterious, gaunt woman dressed in black.
The play builds slowly, with a verbose first act setting the scene for a deliciously atmospheric second half. All the elements of a good ghost story are present: In the fog-filled nights at the House, a horrible accident replays itself on the marshes, while somewhere in the house, a rocking chair creaks. An isolated setting, a dilapidated graveyard and a long forgotten child’s play room reveal themselves under dim, moody lighting and with spine-tingling sound effects.
The telling of the tale is handled expertly by two very fine actors: Adam Tuominen as a young artist helping the haunted Kipps expel his demons, and Tony Busch as the troubled victim. In reliving the events, the two swap roles, with Kipps playing all the people he met during his harrowing experience.
Director Michael Croome shows a macabre sense of humour by extracting a generous amount of comedy in word and action. The effect adds to the overall sinister mood of the play, unlike his penchant for melodrama and occasional lack of subtly. His ongoing use of blackouts is particularly disappointing, slowing down the wordy first half and simply grating by the end of the play.
Laraine Wheeler and Croome’s effectively ominous set design is true to the play’s history although the diaphanous backdrop unfortunately allows us to see and hear the backstage crew.
Costumes by Aubad and Meg Turville are excellent, as are Hugh Hunkin and Nicholas Waterman operating the sound effects.
Despite some directorial disappointments, the powerful performances and gripping script makes for a chilling yet engrossing winter’s evening.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis, Performing Arts Critic, Glam Adelaide.