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HomeTheatreREVIEW: The Girl in Black (Pumphouse Theatre)

REVIEW: The Girl in Black (Pumphouse Theatre)



[Ghost Story]

On a wet, wintery evening, with the complete moon shining vivid, I cross the mists of dream and thought, to neglect what’s actual, and what’s not…

The lights of The Pumphouse stay up as Michael Hurst enters the stage and begins to learn from a big tome. He begins nervously to inform a story – a ghost story – however quickly we’re met by the booming voice of Zane Fleming, chastising the poor studying. Arthur Kipps (Hurst) has employed ‘The Actor’ (Fleming) to assist him render his story, within the hopes that it’ll assist him exorcise his all too actual demons. The Actor encourages him to ‘have sympathy on your viewers’, for tales should not merely about information; they’re additionally about leisure. The 2 males agree that The Actor will play Kipps whereas Kipps would be the narrator and all different characters. And so, the stage is about and the lights dim, dissolving us into the realm of creativeness.

The Girl in Black is a traditional play written by Stephen Mallatratt in 1987, tailored from the ebook by Susan Hill (1983), which at its coronary heart is a intelligent meditation on the character of storytelling. It invitations us to concentrate on the stage and the theatre we inhabit, whereas additionally asking us to interact our imaginations, and blurring the traces between fantasy and actuality. Certainly, the horrific spectre of the girl in black appears to hang-out not solely Arthur Kipps, however the story itself.

Guided by the script, Matt Baker’s path skilfully weaves these contradictory components collectively. A way of theatricality is offered by the staging, the set, the racks of costumes that the actors develop into earlier than our eyes. On the similar time, the technical components – Gareth Evans’ lighting and Geoff Evans’ sound design – create a practical, virtually cinematic, environment.

The expertise is held tightly collectively by the powerhouse duo that’s Hurst and Fleming, with the latter expertly portraying the naïve curiosity of each The Actor and the youthful Kipps, whereas Hurst (in now signature trend) flicks into his numerous characters with ease. The 2 work splendidly collectively to supply precisely the worry, humour and pressure wanted to carry the script to life.

And sure, this present is horrifying! The script is properly paced, with the primary act (at the very least on this rendition) drawing out the stress and the second delivering with a punch. I can see how a West Finish stage may be capable of produce this present with nice spectacle, however Baker and his workforce clearly didn’t see the extra intimate area of The Pumphouse as a limitation. As a substitute, its brick partitions properly transport us to the previous and the smaller theatre brings us near the motion, whereas the rain outdoors will be heard pattering on the rooftop. The moments of fright are delivered with exact timing, with the presence of the ghost all of the extra palpable for being actually there within the room with us. All that is to say that this play reveals the magic of theatre – that liminal area between truth and fiction, creativeness and realism, waking and dreaming.

This play highlights the facility of tales, together with their potential to transcend the boundaries of fiction, and notes that true horror comes from nice tragedy. Kipps enters with a narrative that merely must be advised, for storytelling is certainly a robust technique of reconciling our traumas, each private and collective. Isn’t that, in spite of everything, what horror is all about? 

And so, the query should be requested – why can we proceed to inform this story? Whereas it has been one of many longest-running (non-musical) reveals on the West Finish (second solely to The Mousetrap), it has solely been carried out in NZ a couple of instances – largely by Zane Fleming, who has performed The Actor twice earlier than! Having by no means seen any rendition of this story earlier than, I can say I’m glad to have had the chance. Whereas I believe it’s of utmost significance that our mainstages proceed to prioritise native work and uplift rising voices, I hope there’ll be area for traditional items corresponding to this inside the theatre ecosystem, as soon as it will get extra firmly again on its ft.

Finally, this manufacturing of The Girl in Black is a enjoyable, thrilling and entertaining look ahead to the theatrically initiated and uninitiated alike. It is filled with stage magic, with wonderful performances and a deftly created environment that leaves you with that good, chilling feeling any good horror ought to.

The Girl in Black performs Pumphouse Theatre 11-19 June 2022.

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