Tucked behind the streets of the West End district lies a tiny theatre shrouded in history and horror- home to one of the most notoriously terrifying onstage classics. The unassuming Fortune Theatre has hosted numerous plays over its century of operation, yet none are as full of fright as ‘The Woman in Black.’ Directed by Stephen Mallatratt in 1989 and based on the 1983 novel by Susan Hill, the play remains faithful to its original thriller style but continues to terrify audiences after over 3 decades thanks to its unique approach and intimate yet unnerving atmosphere…
Although officially celebrating its anniversary in 2019, the production was reintroduced last year to invite whoever has the guts to watch the ghastly tale. Known for its mystery surrounding the ominous main character, the production takes elements from gothic literature and combines them with occasional comedic relief to create a truly unforgettable experience. Starting with an opening scene describing a crumbling curse, the audience was hooked from the very beginning. Actors Terence Wilton and Max Hutchinson made a fantastic reenactment of the minimalistic screenplay, bringing tension to all in the theatre as they entered the infamous Eel Marsh House.
Countless West End admirers flock to the Fortune Theatre annually- one of which being Gillian McGuinness, who saw the thrilling tale for herself at its 20th anniversary. “I didn’t know anything about the play before I went to see it,” she admits, “so I didn’t think I’d be so scared- especially towards the end in the scene at the playground!” Despite its size- in fact, it’s thought to be one of the smallest playhouses in London- the theatre offers many perspectives to see the story in all its glory. Audience members in the stalls had a suspenseful surprise when a cloud of thick smoke began to emerge from the stage, clouding their vision as actor Hutchinson paced the theatre: the seats made for a blood-curdling, interactive experience!
Due to its impressively long run, rave reviews have accumulated from not just the Fortune Theatre’s antique venue but across the nation in this travelling production. When asked if she would return to one of London’s hidden gems of the performing arts, McGuinness instantly said yes: even after experiencing West End staples from Hamilton to The Lion King, she described Mallatratt’s interpretation as “Surprisingly thrilling”, from the humorous introduction of main character Kipps to the daunting conclusion of the ghostly woman’s terrifying face flickering in dramatic stage light, sealing the audience’s doom. If you’re looking for an afternoon of horror or a distinctive piece of drama amongst London’s many productions, The Woman in Black is a hair-raising candidate!