It has been 21 years since Stephen
Mallatrat's adaptation of the celebrated Susan Hill novel reached the West End stage.While
still running successfully there, this anniversary tour brings the ghost story
back out to the regions to frighten a whole new generation of theatre goers - and
it is now a set text for schools.
Mr Kipps, a Victorian solicitor,
enlists the help of an actor and books a theatre so he can tell his family and
friends what happened to him as a young man. The actor takes over the
presentation of the piece and becomes Mr Kipps as the young man with Mr Kipps
himself taking on the other roles. The story develops around this play within a
play, recreating with ever expanding performance techniques what happened when
the young man had to travel to Eel Marsh House to deal with the estate of
the now deceased Mrs Drablow.
The play is beautifully written as it slowly builds the tension and suspense within the
narrative. The first half teases you into thinking that you know what will
happen, but the second half holds it's own surprises! Even the hardiest
theatre-goer will find themselves susceptible
to the eerie atmosphere created. This is a psychological thriller which lives up to its meaning from start to finish.
Robert Demeger is simply superb as the
initially rather reserved Mr Kipps, showing, with style and confidence, his
development into performer and
storyteller. Peter Bramhill, who plays
the Actor, is a superb foil to Demeger: his brash enthusiasm receding as
he creates a performance of the young Mr Kipps which appears to take more
control of his emotions.
However the 'Vision' of Jennet Humfrye is somewhat spoiled by her being named in the programme. Reading the information before the
play starts, you already know that the 'ghost' will make an appearance, which is a shame.
Robin Herford, who initially worked
with Mallatrat on the adaptation, again takes the helm for this tour. He
directs the play with a sure touch and uses Michael Holt's simple but effective set to it's full
The only problem with the show lies
with the audience themselves. With it being a set text, the auditorium is
full of teenagers, of whom a fair amount seemto feel it is
acceptable to scream loudly even when there is actually nothing scary happening. At times
they even drowned out the actors and a scream sound effect used in the play was
rendered less effective, because for a moment I was unsure whether it was part of
the play or from the audience themsleves. I came out wishing I had seen it without these added sound effects.
However, this is still a production
that demands to be seen, so if you're not of a nervous disposition, hurry to the Lowry
as you are in for a 5 star, spine-chilling evening in the company of The Woman In Black.