The Woman in Black, a timeless theatre classic returns to Dubai packing the same air of discomfort and terror as it has been for the last 28 years across theatres worldwide.
Originally written as a novel by Susan Hill and later developed for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt, The Woman in Black is an honestly terrifying mix of mystery, history and tragic loss.
The play revolves around two characters on-stage - along with plenty more as you will find out - and their depiction of a story that's haunted protagonist Arthur Kipps (portrayed by Malcolm James) for nearly three decades. Desperate to have his saga told to the world, and unable to do so himself, he uses the aid of an actor (played by Mark Hawkins) to help spread the word.
What follows is a 2-hour playception - a play within a play - going back and forward 30 years, leaving audiences terrified and confused, which further creates an air of mystery.
I'm not one to be easily spooked, maybe because I'm a millennial and I've seen my share of CGI supported horror films, and have been comfortably desensitised in the process. However, The Woman in Black is in a league of its own. Supported by a chilly stage set-up, mist blowers, bloodcurdling screeches and minimal background music, the play wastes no time in transporting the audience to the deep ends of rural England.
Old-school ghost stories have a timeless appeal, in the sense that they are just left there, bare-skinned, to do what they do best - haunt. There are no mind games, no subtlety and definitely no two endings to this quintessentially scary story.
The beauty of theatre, as I've come to re-discover, is its truly immersive nature. No longer are we viewing in 2D, looking away or muting as we please. The Woman in Black is best watched as a play as almost the entire concept banks on the audience playing their part as spectres. It is sort of a trap, one that you cannot get out of till it's over, and I think that it's what makes The Woman in Black all the more terrifying.
In terms of production, I cannot begin to explain how meticulously the team have built up an environment using the bare minimum. Less is definitely more, and just with the use of a bunch of coats, a vintage trunk and a flashlight, an entire 2-hour play is created out of practically nothing. This may have been my imagination purely but I did feel like they also turned up the AC to make the theatre a tad bit cooler than usual, adding to the spine-chilling experience unfolding before our eyes.
The Woman in Black is currently playing at the Madinat Theatre for an entire week, till the 2nd of October
. You can buy tickets online
or at Madinat Theatre box office. I would highly recommend watching this masterpiece as it runs in Dubai because trust me, you want to go back to the comfort of your homes soon after it's over!
My advice: Bring a friend.