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Guest Blog: Max Hutchinson On Joining THE WOMAN IN BLACK

The Woman In Black
Max Hutchinson in
The Woman in Black

We're just starting our second week of shows at the Fortune Theatre in the West End, after three weeks of rehearsal, and every bit of it has been an absolute joy so far. Last week the audiences were great - laughing and screaming in all the places we hoped they might.

That's one of the things I really love about this show: there's a bit of everything. I think it surprises people, but not necessarily in the way they might think. Audience members have said to me that they didn't expect to laugh. At the start of the play, there's a man on stage (Arthur Kipps, played by Terence Wilton) who apparently has no ability for public speaking whatsoever, and by the end the audience have been on a real journey with him.

Terry has done the show before, so I was slightly nervous going into rehearsal as the 'new kid', but he has been incredibly warm and supportive, as has everyone involved with the show - including Robin Herford, who's directed The Woman in Black for 30 years, and associate director Antony, who's also performed in the show.

We've got an amazing stage management team here at the Fortune, and all the crew know the show so well that it takes the edge off the nerves. You feel you're in safe hands. We were also lucky enough to rehearse on stage for the majority, so our familiarity with props and the space has been accelerated.

The Woman In Black
Terence Wilton and Max Hutchinson
in The Woman in Black

Different elements were added as we went - today we'll add sound, tomorrow we'll add lights - until you've dressed the show without really realising it! It's definitely a luxury to be able to rehearse this way.

It's been fun trying to gauge how to play each audience - learning how to 'ride' the screams. I'd done a few comedy/spoof shows before this and said to Robin and Antony that I was interested to see what it's like doing a horror, having never done one before. They said there were certainly similarities to do with timing as with comedy and I'm absolutely finding that to be the case! The rhythm of getting a scream is similar to the rhythm of getting a laugh.

We have a lot of younger audiences, as the script is still on some school curriculums, and it's great having all that energy in the theatre. Playing to younger audiences is exciting too because you know it could be someone's first experience of going to the theatre and therefore you feel a responsibility not to put them off for life!

This show was one of the first plays I saw when I was a teenager (a school drama trip) and I loved it so much I dragged my Dad back a few months later. It had a huge impact on me - the fact that there were just two actors, that they used very little in the way of set or costume, and yet I had felt really scared because I had been encouraged to use my imagination.

I also remember thinking that it's a great story. It's not just about scaring the audience - there's an emotional heart to it, which I hadn't expected. Those two visits to see the play certainly had a large impact on me wanting to go and train as an actor, so it's a huge thrill to be able to have a go at telling the same story. I hope we do it justice!

The Woman in Black currently booking at the Fortune Theatre until 26 September

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

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