An evening at the theatre often makes you laugh, and sometimes makes you cry. Hopefully it also makes you think.
What it rarely does is make you shriek out loud in sudden terror. Then giggle a second later to realise that you and the entire audience have hearts that almost skipped a beat.
We all like the thrill of some quick but controlled fear, otherwise ghost stories and roller coasters wouldn’t be so popular. Now you can scare yourself at Montecasino with The Woman in Black, a superbly staged two-handed thriller.
The story begins when care-worn Arthur Kipps recruits a young actor to bring his story back to life, so to speak. Kipps had a spooky encounter with a malevolent spirit when he was a young and keen solictor, sent off to a bleak and eerie mansion to sort out the affairs of its recently deceased owner.
The fearful experience has cast a chill over his entire life, and telling his tale is the only way to exorcise his ghost.
The play was adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt from a spine-tingler written by Susan Hill, and it’s beautifully scripted.
It uses the clever technique of having the young thespian play the part of the young Kipps as he re-enacts the story. Anton Luitingh plays the actor and young Kipps, and is utterly believable as a brash, undaunted youngster who finds his disbelief in ghosts cast aside on some dark, disturbing nights.
Eckard Rabe plays Kipps the elder, then a succession of taciturn and suspicious villagers who the young Kipps encountered when he made the journey all those years ago. He switches between roles easily, making each one a full if brief character in his own right.
Both Rabe and Luitingh are absolutely superb, and word perfect in these demanding roles. The two-handed horror story is absolutely gripping as the plot unfolds. And because it’s a thriller, there are times when you jump out of your seat as the half-expected visions materialise.
The imaginative staging brings together sights and sound effects that play on your own heightened imagination to really get those goose-bumps rising.
It’s a very classy act, and an absolute pleasure to watch two consummate professionals at play.