The Woman in Black

Critics' choice
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Fortune Theatre, Aldwych Until Saturday January 16 2016
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It's been over 20 years since this skillful adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 Gothic horror story first started setting West End audience a-shiver. 'The Woman in Black' remains perennially popular – particularly, it seems, with generally hard-to-please teenagers – which is testament to its rough-theatre appeal and the extraordinary and enduring potency, not of guts, gore or special effects, but of simple suggestion.

Ageing Arthur Kipps is haunted by sinister events that befell him 30 years earlier. In an effort to exorcise his demons, he hires an actor to help him tell his story for an invited audience.

As they rehearse, though, their staging itself becomes prey to supernatural visitations from the titular hatchet-faced, whip-thin, funereally garbed woman. Stephen Mallatratt's dramatisation and a deft production by Robin Herford exploit the peculiarly spooky atmosphere of an empty theatre, making us, as an audience, feel almost like spectral voyeurs. And the chills are irresistibly effective: swirling fog, a creaking rocking chair, a locked door, a pale visage looming out of the gloom.

Only occasionally does the staging show its age. The projected image of the gaunt, sinister house of Kipps' tormented memory looks hopelessly cheap and crude, and a graveyard conjured with dust sheets struggles to convince, even within the low-tech aesthetic parameters of the piece.

Yet the shrieks and gasps that greet the performance demonstrate that, even in the twenty-first century, this doughty little drama still casts its delicious spell of malevolence and menace.

Venue name: Fortune Theatre
Address: Russell Street
Transport: Covent Garden tube

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:8
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:4
1 person listening
Chloe C

Really enjoyed this show! The acting was great and I loved how atmospheric it was even with the use of simple effects and limited props. If you're a fan of traditional ghost stories you'll love it. Perfect entertainment for a crisp winters night!



First part is fairly dull and not scared. Second half jumpy more than scarey I would say. The acting was excellent. Film is much more frightening. A good piece of theatre though


The Woman in Black is a great bet for anyone who enjoys a traditional ghost story, with plenty of moments to make you jump. I took my mum, who hadn't seen it before, and she loved it. While it wasn't quite as scary the second time around for me (the production frequently uses the element of surprise), it was still a hugely enjoyable and atmospheric watch. The story starts off slowly, but gradually ratchets up the tension until the audience is on the edge of hysterics. Note that it is faithful to Susan Hill's book and not to the much-altered Hammer film version. Spooky fun.


if you are going to see this play then I suggest you get seats in the stalls so you can be scared that little bit more. This production brings back the classic ghost story that I am sure we have all been told. Great effects adding to a more eerie feel that will have you twitching in your chair........just don't eat a curry before hand ;-)


A fantastic play that I would thouroughly recommend to anyone. Great story with a few laughs and plenty of moments that make you jump! Acting was fantastic and the clever use of stage and props, combined with use of sound effects made it a very enjoyable experience. One of the best plays I've seen.


Overall a good play. Acting was great, and the script has enough laughs and scares to keep you interested. A bit slow to start though and you do have to immerse yourself in it to truly enjoy yourself.


One of the best plays I've seen. It's live storytelling with great use of the props and space, you get sucked right into the midst of it. It started out a little slow but picks up quick, keeps you laughing and jumping, and then you don't want it to end! Tip: try and go on the weekend to avoid screaming school kids!


An amazing performance! Performed to the best of its ability by the two actors. A great day out with the family, i would highly recommend this performance! I've seen the performance 2 times now, the second time was even scarier than the first! An excellent use of sound and light effects, the theatre really makes the performance come to life.


very well scripted and well played. The actors engulf you in a story that's gripping and dramatic.


This is not even for teenagers, it's for kids. Good acting and they do have some authentic scary moments but utterly poor flat story, nothing to take away


Went to see The Woman in Black today with two friends because we heard and read great reviews about was terrible!!!! so boring!!! do not listen to the reviews...People are paid to write these good things!!!! it was a big waste of time and not bother going!!!!!


Excellent. Not much else to say; it's chilling, emotional and overall a terrifying night out.


Well guys I thought the story was amazing considering it's a Gothic Horror for a LIVE audience, but unfortunately it was a little too narrated for me. I wanted to see the events happen more.


Caught the matinée performance on Tuesday the 31st of May. Fantastic performance from Antony Eden (a bit sexy) and Patrick Drury (accents were superb). I got far too into it and was rather unsettled the rest of the day, great show.


Disappointing. Great acting and effective staging but was expecting it to be a lot more scary and "spine-chilling" as other reviews had commented. I think we saw the actual 'woman in black' maybe 2 or 3 times throughout the entire performance!

Reece Millar

What a massive let down!! my friend recommended this show to me as he said that it was the scariest thing he has seen. Little did I know he was 15 at the time he saw it. Great actors and slightly entertaining but if your looking to be scared and are not a 15 year old schoolgirl like most of those who sat beside and in front of me then go to the London Dungeons!!!!