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BWW Review: THE WOMAN IN BLACK, Exeter Northcott Theatre, 15 November 2016

Stephen Mallatratt's ghoulish adaptation of Susan Hill's infamous ghost story has been frightening London audiences for over 25 years and embarked on a UK tour in September. Whilst on its travels the classic play has taken up residence for a spell of haunting at Exeter's Northcott Theatre this week, allowing Devon audiences the opportunity to see the hit show within their locale. Unlike some of the West End's other long-running stage offerings, it's easy to see why The Woman In Black has enjoyed such longevity, as the timeless tale remains an utterly thrilling theatrical white-knuckle ride.

We're invited to join Arthur Kipps, a lawyer obsessed with a curse he believes to have been bestowed upon his family after a terrifying experience many years earlier. He enlists an actor to assist in his telling of the legend, a ghost story, with real life implications for the pair. It's the type of tale that leaves audiences looking over their shoulders as they leave the auditorium; such is the impact of the audaciously performed and intricately detailed production.

Micheal Holt's design and lighting add to the general feeling of discomfort by creating the perfect climate of fear, which allows the anticipation and imagination of the horrors to become almost as frightening as the vision of the fabled figure herself.

Blood-curdling screams send shock waves around the theatre and are often echoed by the audience, with every spine-tingling encounter with the beastly beauty darkly lit to ensure full fearful immersion.

The hellish fright fest is presented with absolute conviction by David Acton as Arthur Kipps and Matthew Spencer as The Actor, both conveying deeply emotional, contrite and yet at times hilarious characterisation, while never allowing the pace to wane.

A wonderfully traumatic and compelling piece of theatre, The Woman In Black will fill your thoughts and play on your personal phobias long after you've made your journey home.

The Woman in Black will continue at Exeter Northcott Theatre until 19 November

Photo by Tristram Kenton

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