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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Theatre review: The Woman in Black is a perfect choice for this ghoulish season

The Woman in Black continues at Presentation House Theatre until October 31.

Presentation House Theatre celebrates October as the month for ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night with the perfect choice: The Woman in Black, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from Dame Susan Hill’s novel of the same name.

Set in early 20th-century England, the story revolves around Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer tasked with settling the estate of a reclusive widow in the remote and eerie Eel Marsh House. As he delves into his work, Kipps becomes plagued by a series of unexplained and terrifying events.

Kipps enlists the help of an actor to play himself in recounting his traumatic experience, and as the two men delve deeper into their performance, reality and fiction blur.

Aidan Wright gives an energetic performance as the actor. Cuffling gives a well-rounded performance as the playwright and an amalgam of other characters, dancing effortlessly between roles, from a sniffling desk clerk to a Yorkshire landowner. He even takes over the storytelling while the actor, as Kipps, wards off fearful apparitions. 

The woman in black is one such apparition. The person who portrays her macabre visitations is not named in the program notes, perhaps intentionally because she is, after all, an apparition. But she deserves recognition for her powerful presence, as does the entire backstage crew.

Dramatic sound effects bring imagined characters almost to life onstage, while lighting (Brad Trenaman), costumes (Catherine Rose), props and the minimalist set (Glenn MacDonald) all enhance this enjoyable performance, second only to The Mousetrap in popularity among theatregoers.

Under Cuffling’s tight direction, this production of The Woman in Black is recommended for the whole family, twelve and over.

The Woman in Black, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the novel by Dame Susan Hill. Directed by Bernard Cuffling. Presented by CLASSical ACT Collective at Presentation House Theatre (333 Chesterfield Ave, North Vancouver) until October 31. Visit phtheatre.org for tickets and information.

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