Review: The Woman In Black @ QPAC (Brisbane)

'The Woman In Black' - Image © James Reiser
Luisa is a travel, food and entertainment writer who will try just about anything. With a deep love of culture, she can be found either at the airport, at QPAC, or anywhere serving a frosty chilli margarita.

This hugely popular play is back in Australia after nearly 20 years – and it is absolutely worth the wait.

'The Woman In Black' is one of the longest running shows in London’s West End, second only to 'The Mousetrap' by Agatha Christie. When a play has been around for more than 30 years, there is always a fear that it will appear tired, or dated, but this actually works in 'The Woman In Black'’s favour, as almost a meta exploration of traditional theatre techniques.

Set in Edwardian England in the early 1900s, 'The Woman In Black' is a ghost story, told with only two actors on stage. Inspired by the original director’s lack of funds, the set is quite bare, with The Actor (an effervescent Daniel MacPherson) explaining to John Waters’ Arthur Kipps how the same trunk can be used – with a little imagination – as a horse cart, a bed and a desk. This wink to the audience on stage craft lets us in on the joke, and brings us inside the story.

The Woman In Black 2024 JamesReiser 2
Image © James Reiser

The performances of MacPherson and Waters are perfect, on par with their long and high-profile careers. The transformation of Waters’ character is compelling. The audience witnesses the metamorphosis from cheesy, easy laughs in the first few minutes, to a master unfurling his theatrical wings. MacPherson’s The Actor is all easy charm and dazzling charisma. While he isn’t given the range of Waters to show off his talents, there couldn’t be more spot-on casting.

With only two actors, and a fairly bare (but still brilliantly designed) stage, you could be forgiven for thinking the play would stretch into tedium. Not only do the actors keep you completely engaged, however, but the sound effects (cleverly woven into the play’s show-and-tell plot), lighting and tension keep you on the edge of your seat.

'The Woman In Black' is touring nationally, including – wonderfully – stops in Toowoomba, Wollongong and Newcastle in addition to state capitals. Don’t wait another two decades to see this fabulous and timeless play.

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