'The Woman in Black' by Stephen Mallatratt and Susan Hill
Atlantic Repertory Company now onstage at BMO Studio Theatre, Saint John New Brunswick
Drew Murdock. Background: R. H. Thomson. Foreground: Patrick Jeffrey
The Woman in Black, an adaptation of Susan Hill’s Gothic novel by Stephen Mallatratt is brought to life by Atlantic Repertory Company. The production is beautifully staged and delivers thrills and chills. Saint Johnners are lucky. Running through to April 29, ‘The Woman in Black’ is truly an experience not to be missed.
The Woman in Black is a play within a play. R. H. Thomson plays Arthur Kipps, a man who wants to tell his horrifying tale of the titular woman in black. As the show progresses it becomes less of a storyteller to a re-enactment of Kipps’ terrifying time at Eel Marsh House, the home of the late Mrs. Drablow. Thomson assumes the various roles of the supporting characters while Patrick Jeffrey plays the young Arthur Kipps.
Kipps is sent to deal with the estate of the late Mrs. Drablow. On his way to a secluded island, once the home of the reclusive Mrs. Drablow, Kipps interacts with a few locals who are unwilling to talk about what has happened at Eel Marsh House. The audience learns more about the inhabitants and encounters the ill-fated woman in black while Kipps learns about it himself.
Director Ron Jenkins and his team immediately draw the audience into the story. From the moment we enter the theatre space at the BMO Studio, there is a feeling of confinement. The auditorium is wrapped in black drapes, making the small space that much smaller. The stage is set with all kinds of bric-a-brac with a few windows and a door placed prominently stage left. It looks and feels like an attic space rather than a theatrical stage (the traditional setting of the show). Kudos to Jenny Godin for this beautiful and eerie set design. The addition of sound and the restrained use of a fog machine add to the atmosphere of the whole production.
R. H. Thomson is a real delight giving subtle nuances to each of the characters he adeptly takes on from one moment to the next. His presence is keenly felt throughout the production, drawing attention from his fellow actor from time to time. Patrick Jeffrey switches from the comical overdramatic actor at the beginning of the show to the horrified Arthur Kipps by the end of act one. This is a role for which he will be remembered. Seeing Jeffrey and Thomson on the stage together in this production is magical, and that is what theatre is all about.
Atlantic Theatre Company’s production of The Woman in Black is definitely not to be missed. It’s gripping, funny, and a true thriller. The production runs through April 29th at the BMO Studio Theatre, 112 Princess Street. St. John. For tickets call 506-652-7582 or online at tickets.saintjohntheatrecompany.com.