An aging London solicitor employs a young stage actor to help him relive the chilling events that occurred when he was settling an estate in Yorkshire. As the two delve further into the memories of what he encountered on those Northern English moors, it becomes evident that whatever curse had him in his grip then, has followed him into the theatre now.
You probably know the story. The spine-chilling tale of The Woman in Black has incited innumerable screams since its inception in 1983.
It continues to terrorize scare junkie audiences the world over, having been retold for film, with a freshly released from Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe, and the stage – it is the West End’s second longest running play.
Now rehearsals are underway at the Presentation House Theatre for a Vancouver production, with Famous Artists Limited, a North Shore-based production company, at its helm.
“I’ve seen this four times at The Fortune in London and just, wow. I love the show,” said Bill Allman, owner of Famous Artists Limited and president of the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.
“It was about 10 years ago that a friend of mine told me it would be the scariest night in the theatre, and he wasn’t wrong.”
A decade on and Allman still revels in the frissons of fear delivered by the show like he did that very first time. So what is it that gives the classic ghost story such enduring appeal? Two things, said Allman: First of all, it boasts a “very solid story” that makes for incredibly entertaining theatre, and, secondly, people the world over have a macabre desire to be scared witless.
“People actually like to be chilled. We love to be scared, it’s the second longest running show in London for a reason,” he said.
“This is a good, popular ghost story, and there aren’t many of those. It’s not too clever for itself. It relies on the imagination and the intellect for its thrills."
It’s not just people popping out of trunks and yelling ‘boo’, said Allman, that would be “just silly.”
The show is directed by Vancouver theatre veteran Bernard Cuffling, who will also star alongside Aidan Wright, and will run at the Jericho Arts Centre from Feb. 18 until March 5.
In the meantime, locals are encouraged to keep an eye out for the shadowy figure of The Woman in Black around town. Her appearances will be fleeting, but those who are able to spot her – on neighbourhood streets, in the woods, on the beach, or within local cemeteries – could be in with a chance to win free tickets to the show.
Allman attests he is unable to give away any of the locations, but he is able to offer a small clue: The woman will likely be accompanied, he said, by a fellow in a top hat.
The Woman In Black
When: Feb. 18 through March 5
Where: Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery St., Vancouver
Cost: From $28, tickets for purchase on Eventbrite
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.