The Woman in Black
‘I think the trick is that it’s so simple.’ Actor Peter Bramhill’s explanation is as good as any I’ve heard for the phenomenal success of The Woman in Black. Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s celebrated ghost story has been a frequent visitor to our stages since its first appearance in 1987, and fills houses with each visit.
‘Really, it’s just two blokes meeting up to talk about something that’s happened in the past. There’s not much more to it than that; the creation of horse drawn carriages and so on is all done with simple props – but it’s all about storytelling and atmosphere,’ says Bramhill, who’ll be playing the young actor visited by an older man with a ghostly tale from the past. If this doesn’t sound much, it isn’t, and the ghostly figure of the title isn’t much seen either, yet somehow it all contrives to tighten the screws nicely on an audience, who, invariably veer between screams and laughter, particularly over the latter stages.
Of course, there’s a good deal of moral and political commentary under the story as well, with its uncovering of the hidden history of a woman stigmatised by single motherhood in Victorian Britain being the germ of the mystery. But Bramhill maintains that this needn’t be at the centre for the audience. ‘It works on all kinds of levels – it can have all that depth – it’s all there, or it can be a good old fashioned scary story. The other great quality of it is that you can take either of those things from it and still have a good night out.’
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Mon 7–Sat 12 Jun