Two actors, a rocking chair and a Woman in Black

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First of all, you’ve got to go

Even if you’re not a live theatre fan, The Woman in Black on right now at the Theatre Royal will change your mind.

I screamed out loud - something I don’t think I’ve ever done, even when watching the scariest of horror movies. But this was a play, a theatre production with only two of a cast playing all the roles.

With a sparsity of scenery, The Woman in Black makes clever use of sound and screen projection to bring to life a ghost story that will have you gripping the arm of whoever’s sitting next to you - whether you know them or not.

One woman whispered: “The hairs on my arm are standing up”. There was a bloke a few seats away who must’ve had his hands over his face for almost the whole performance.

Now, I don’t want to play it up so much as to spoil the fear factor that is so much a part of the show. Like reading a book, the live version is so much scarier than the movie that star’s Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe, mainly because it induces the audience to use their own imagination. And, if you can do that,, it’ll allow you to, well I can’t say ‘enjoy’ it more. Rather like a scary fairground ride, it’s not until you emerge from the theatre with your heart thumping that you want to go back and do it all again.

I was with a colleague who had read the book, seen the movie and bought the programme (well, maybe not that last one. Who does that?) and she still didn’t know when the chills would sneak up on us.

A lawyer engages a sceptical young actor to help him tell his terrifying story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. It all begins innocently enough, but as they reach further into his darkest memories the borders between make believe and reality begin to blur and the flesh begins to creep.

With stellar performances from Malcolm James and Matt Connor, The Woman in Black is on at the Theatre Royal until Saturday (April 25) with two matinees at 2.30pm on Thursday and Saturday.

That said, it’s not really one for young children but I’m sure older kids will love a scared witless kinda way.