The Northcott is situated within Exeter University‘s lovely Streatham campus. Opened in 1967 it plays a pivotal role in Exeter’s theatre scene as it’s flagship professional theatre. With 460 seats, wherever you sit in the the auditorium the experience is an intimate one. The last time I visited the Northcott Theatre was to attend TEDxExeter earlier this year, it struck me as being a fantastic space and left me looking forward to seeing a production there.
I saw The woman is black a few years ago in the West End (it’s now celebrating it’s 27th anniversary) and I enjoyed it so much I thought it might be good to see it again.
The woman in black is a haunting ghost story set in a spooky manor house on an island. Originally written by Susan Hill, the spooky tale has also been turned into a major motion picture, starring Daniel Radcliffe (the highest grossing British horror film in 20 years). There is even a sequel, The Woman in Black 2: Angel Of Death (2014) which I tried to watch on my own and couldn’t sit through – it was far too scary!
David Acton as Arthur Kipps and Matthew Spencer (the actor) engage the audience immediately as they discuss how to tell Arthur’s story.
Acton weaves in and out of the extra characters that Kipps meets on his journey with ease whilst Spencer reenacts the story complete with asides, instructions to the soundman and stage directions. The simple set is transformed throughout the production by atmospheric lighting, a smoke machine and sound effects.
The audience are taken on the journey with them, climbing on the rickety wicker basket which becomes the carriage, riding it through the eerie marches, across the causeway and into the house.
Once in the house, things become creepy. Sound effects made us leap out of our seat and the haunting apparition of the woman made skin crawl.
The production was chilling to the bone and I am very glad that we didn’t have to walk home afterwards. I especially loved the use of gauze to break up the stage, backlighting the scenes on the staircase and in the child’s room, making them more ghostly and ethereal.
We were on the edge of our seats throughout!
The Northcott definitely is a special venue and I’m looking forward to seeing Peter Pan in a few weeks.