Chilling audiences for over three decades in London’s West End, Stephen Malatratt’s stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black makes an appearance on this side of the pond at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre this Halloween season.
“everyone loves a good ghost story. “
First encountering The Woman in Black in London some fifteen years ago as an audience member, Neptune’s artistic director Jeremy Webb would go on to perform in the play at Festival Antigonish.
“It scared me to death; it has a way of getting under your skin,” says Webb, who also directs this production.
With its pedigree and what Webb refers to as “finely tuned storytelling,” he saw The Woman in Black as the perfect vehicle for Neptune to tackle during the Halloween season.
“It’s a story of a man that has gone through a traumatic experience in his past and really wants to share that story to warn others and to share his experiences,” explains Webb. “So he hires a young, vibrant, impressive actor to help him tell the story. They get lost in the story and we see it unfold with lots of chill along the way.”
“Every time I walk in, I feel privileged and honoured that we get to do this again,” says Webb. “It’s very emotional.”
Actors Gill Anderson and Gordon Patrick White agree with Webb’s sentiment, as The Woman in Black will mark Anderson’s first time on stage in nearly two years and White’s second, after recently wrapping a show on Prince Edward Island.
“I’ve been away for a good bit of time, and it’s really nice to be back in Nova Scotia at the Neptune Theatre,” says White. “I echo what Jeremy said about it being a privilege to be working.”
It is also a bit of a homecoming for Anderson.
“I feel like it’s a full-circle moment for me to be able to be on the main stage in a leading role with Gordon because I took my first classes at Neptune over 30 years ago in the basement of the theatre,” she says. “So I feel really very privileged that Jeremy has trusted me with this, and I’m excited to open.”
A technical show alongside the chills, Anderson says it is a combination of what is happening offstage as much as on stage that makes this thriller work.
“What’s really neat about seeing a live thriller is that we’re working so closely with the lights and the sound and all of it coming together at the exact right moment,” she says. “It feels magical when that all happens.”
Part of the magic with The Woman in Black also comes from its surprises.
“There are things in this show that I’m not going to tell you because if you knew about them, it would weaken the experience. No spoilers,” says Webb.
Not designed for the youngest set, Webb says the show is suitable for twelve-year-olds and above. “It’s a grownup play that I think teenagers will also get a kick out of because it spooks you out a little,” he says.
“Everyone loves a good ghost story,” says White of why audiences will want to come to see The Woman in Black.
“And besides, it’s Halloween,” adds Anderson.
But more than a few scares, Webb also sees this second show since Neptune re-opened a little more pragmatically.
“It’s a great opportunity to get back into Neptune Theatre and support the local arts community and help get us to get back running again.”
The Woman in Black plays Neptune Theatre’s Fountain Hall (1593 Argyle Street, Halifax) through November 14. Visit neptunetheatre.com for tickets and information.