The Prickle (@ThePrickle) October 15, 2019
The Woman In Black is celebrating 30 years in the West End this year; and theatre company We Draman is celebrating its fifth October run of their own Cantonese-language production. The performance setting is signficantly changed, too: we queue up outside on the street, having been told to dress in black, and then we’re led group by group into a rickety lift, through a candle-lit, newspaper-strewn corridor, to arrive at a tiny, fifty-seater black box studio theatre.
Stephen Mallatratt’s masterful adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel uses only two characters: old, tortured Arthur Kipps (Desmond Tang), who employs a plucky, young actor (Ronald Lam) to help him rehearse and deliver a stage performance based on his nightmarish encounters with “The Woman In Black” that haunt him to this day.
Of course, one of the main attractions of the play is the promise of supernatural hauntings, and Desmond Tang’s new direction doesn’t disappoint. One or two of the jump scares are dealt with much more subtly here, and some excellent music (Martin Lai) lends a more theatrically rich feeling, along with a new lighting design (Leo Siu) that really compliments the venue.
Just in time for Halloween, this is theatre at its most visceral, which explains why it’s back for the fifth year and still selling out. There are no subtitles, so non-Cantonese-speaking audiences will miss out on the subtleties of this new translation (Sarina Cheung), but brilliant performances and staging still rack up the tension. If you manage to bag a ticket, keep the secrets, and sleep well.
Haunting Hong Kong audiences until 31 October 2019.