Tom Kemp reviews Gwawr Loader’s Y Fenyw Mewn Du, the Welsh language adaptation of Stephen Malatratt and Susan Hill’s classic ghost story, The Woman in Black.
Translated by Gwawr Loader and directed by Geinor Styles, Y Consortiwm Cymraeg presents Y Fenw Mewn Du, the Welsh language adaptation of Stephen Malatratt and Susan Hill’s chilling ghost horror story, The Woman in Black.
The original story is set in early-twentieth century England and follows the tale of recently widowed lawyer Arthur Kipps, as he ventures to a small remote village where he discovers the ghost of an unforgiving woman is petrifying the locals. What follows is a tale of terrifying events as Kipps takes us through his stay with the woman in black.
Gwawr Loader’s adaptation remains true to its original source; however, there are subtle changes and nods to Welsh culture that provide an excellent twist to this timeless classic. The artistic direction from Theatre Na NÓg’s Geinor Styles assisted by Llinos Daniels uses the Welsh language to keep the audience horror-struck until the very end. The creepy sound of a Welsh nursery rhyme playing to pre-empt the appearance of the woman in black sticks out in particular.
For over 30 years this adaptation has been scaring audiences. Set sometime in the 1930’s, the story follows junior solicitor Arthur Kipps, played by Jonathan Nefydd, as he tells the terrifying tale of the events that occurred during his time at an eerie and abandoned Welsh manor house, following the death of its owner Mrs Drablow. He enlists the help of a young actor to tell this tale, played by Tom Blumberg.
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Instead of playing himself, Nefydd plays multiple roles which helps move the story along. With simple, yet effective, costume changes, Nefydd’s ability to completely change into different characters in quick succession is a masterclass in acting. From start to finish, both actors create a chilling atmosphere and effectively build tension and discomfort among the audience by increasing the intensity scene after scene. I thoroughly enjoyed Nefydd’s gripping performance.
Y Fenyw Mewn Du is a no-frills classic ghost story. The effective simplicity of the minimalistic set by designer Kitty Callister, complemented by the wooden church styled seats of Theatr Soar in Merthyr Tydfil, felt extremely fitting. It’s this simple approach that makes this production so scarily successful. Lighting and AV designer Andy Pike and composer Barnaby Southgate create a hair-raising atmosphere, with a spooky soundtrack accompanied by a sensational illusion of darkness and terrifyingly cold shadowy mists. There’s a handful of moments where the woman in black is briefly seen seconds before a lighting change followed by a loud piercing sound triggers her disappearance; with that being said, a handful of moments didn’t serve the jump scares that the production intended, but the majority were worthy of a cinematic horror film.
This really is a must-see scary spectacle not to be missed; don’t go alone and be prepared to scream.
Y Fenyw Mewn Du tour continues to the Borough Theatre, Abergavenny, for 10 – 11 November, before reaching the closing leg of the tour at the Welfare Hall, Ystradgynlais, from 16 to 18 November. English audio guidance and subtitles will be available via the Sibrwd (Whisper) app at performances on 10 and 18 November.
For more information visit Theatre Na NÓg website.