Celebrating its 25th anniversary in the West End, The Woman In Black returns to the Lyceum Theatre next week on its 12th UK tour.
The man to explain the recurring appeal of Susan Hill’s ghostly tale is surely Robin Herford, its director since the first performance at the Theatre-By-The-Sea in Scarborough in 1987.
“For one thing it appeals to young people, not exclusively but it means you are getting new generations of audiences,” he says. “I cannot claim that was more than a happy accident, it wasn’t a conscious decision. We were aiming for a play for adults over the age of 11.”
A lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of a ‘Woman in Black’, engages a young actor to help him tell his story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. It begins innocently enough, but as they reach further into his darkest memories, they find themselves caught up in a world of eerie marshes and moaning winds. The borders between make believe and reality begin to blur and the flesh begins to creep.
“The great thing about The Woman in Black is it’s a wonderful human story about a child born out of wedlock in the days when it was not permissible and the mother handing him over to her sister, a perfectly believable situation, only for him to die.
“One of the other factors is I keep changing the cast which gives it fresh blood,” continues the director. “Because it’s only a two-hander I am able to say to them, this is your show for the next six or nine months or whatever and they bring their own energy and imagination and integrity to bear and that always leads to a different show.”
The new touring production which opened last week in Dartford has Malcolm James as the solicitor and Matt Connor as the young actor.
l The Woman in Black, Lyceum, Tuesday to Saturday.