The Woman in Black is an iconic ghost story that has gripped audiences across the world and has now arrived at Ipswich Regent - and it is a unique theatrical experience.

With just two actors carrying the two-hour play it's all about atmospherics and story-telling . . . and gripping the audience.

This isn't a "feel-good" theatrical experience which is normally what I look for in a visit to the Regent - but it is compelling drama.


Ipswich Star: Mark Hawkins and Malcolm James in The Woman in BlackMark Hawkins and Malcolm James in The Woman in Black (Image: Mark Douet)

The two-hander stars Malcolm James as Arthur Kipps and Mark Hawkins as "The Actor" and between them they play a number of roles telling the story of the mysterious Woman in Black who is seen in the marshland near a remote village.

The original book was written as a Gothic ghost story by Susan Hill in 1983, and essentially the two actors tell this story thanks to the help of some very impressive special effects.

But what is more important than the plot itself is the atmosphere that is created - the growing feeling of menace and detachment from the world.

In the programme notes, I see that the actors in the main roles change every nine months - partly to bring new energy to the production but also because the physical and mental strains of the roles are so great.

The Woman in Black ran in the West End for more than 30 years - it was the second longest-running straight drama there after The Mousetrap.

Seeing it at the Regent is a great experience - and the performances of the actors and the special effects team are astonishing.

I have to say, I personally don't quite get why it has been SUCH a success - but that might be because it's not the kind of theatre I'd normally go to.

And a little bit of me felt it would be even better in a smaller, more intimate venue - but at the Regent there is the chance for thousands to see it, and it's well worth the effort.