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Are you ready for the most terrifying experience in live theatre? E-mail

For more than 25 years, The Woman in Black has been lauded as the most terrifying live theatre experience in the world, and next month the spine-chiller comes to Beenleigh.

Phoenix Ensemble presents the hugely popular West End play over four weekends, opening 2 May in the intimate (and atmospheric) Pavilion Theatre.

wib2img 0596 smallThe Woman in Black is the story of Arthur, a man trying to come to grips with disturbing events of his past. As a junior solicitor, he was summoned to a bleak house for the funeral of its sole inhabitant, a mysterious woman with tragic secrets. Now, years later, he's desperate to exorcise the ghosts from that encounter.

While the play explores themes of isolation, death, loneliness and revenge, it also offers a glimmer of hope through the characters' journeys.

Director Steve Pearton (who directed last year's much-loved It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play) is relishing the chance to delve into darker territory with the psychological thriller.

"I think people relish a good scare (on stage or on screen) for a number of reasons: we seek a distraction from the daily routines of life; we want to counter social norms; we seek an adrenaline rush; and we hope to voyeuristically glimpse fright from a safe distance. We revel in leftover childhood fears that still reside in our subconscious, like archetypes. Watching a play or a movie allows us to experience these fearful emotions from a distance, in the knowledge that we can safely exit the theatre when it's all done.

"I have plenty of archetypal fears residing in my unconscious, so what better way to play with those fears than by telling a ghost story? Apart from that, the bottom line is that it is a great story."

While Hollywood uses special effects and camera angles to ratchet up tension in horror movies, live theatre brings other dimensions.
"The Woman in Black is a ghost story, and the best ghost stories are all about what you do NOT see," Steve says.

"Lighting and sound effects obviously help, but in this production it's also critical the audience has an emotional connection to the characters.

"The biggest challenge I had was finding the appropriate balance between engaging the audience on an emotional level and getting the scare factor right. A great series of scares are all well and good, but if the audience doesn't care about the characters or their journey, it's all for nothing. Fortunately, my cast (Alex Milosevic, William Boyd, Maranne McQuade and Jermia Turner) has been up to the challenge."

Steve points out the play is not for everyone, given the nature of the production. "While there's no profanity or violence in the show, it is a horror story. There are no gushes of blood, but there's plenty of psychological tension. It's definitely not suitable for young children."

But for audiences who love quality live theatre and crave a nerve-shredding thriller, Steve says: "Embrace the fear!"

"Phoenix has a well-deserved reputation for producing a wide variety of interesting shows; productions that are not your run-of-the-mill 'drawing-room comedies'. The Woman In Black is certainly not your standard community theatre piece, so I hope it will be embraced as something unique and above all, entertaining."

Alex Milosevic
William Boyd
Maranne McQuade
Jermia Turner

The Woman in Black
Venue: Pavilion Theatre, Beenleigh Showgrounds, James Street, Beenleigh
7.30pm: 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24 May
Tickets: $26 adult; $24 concession

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:40
An interview with Alex Milosevic and William Boyd about The Woman in Black E-mail

Our newsletter, The Flame, interviewed William Boyd (top image) and Alex Milosevic (second image) recently about starring in The Woman in Black. Here are their responses.

Five words that describe The Woman in Black?
WB: Freaky, chilling, suspenseful, rich and dark. 
AM: Soulful, eerie, emotional, challenging and thought-provoking.

Describe what challenges you personally face performing in The Woman in Black?
img 0274will smallWB: Normally, my greatest challenge is convincing people that I’m over 18 years old. 
But here, I think the greatest challenge will be engaging the audience to such an extent that they’ll be largely unaware that they’re using their imaginations for a good deal of the show. It is the first time that I’ve worked with relatively few props or sets in a show that takes place in many different destinations - the audience needs to feel the uniqueness of each one.
AM: During the course of the play I have to span a wide range of emotional moments and also, it's extremely challenging vocally.

Why do you think the play has been running for 25 years in the West End?
AM: It touches upon thoughts and feelings we all have but are sometimes too afraid to express for fear of what others may think. It's presented in a simple, clear way which does not divert attention from the story itself. 

WB: The script is very powerful and full of beautifully rich language. Sometimes, delivering those lines and describing the settings is like biting into a succulent piece of fruit, it’s no wonder audiences keep coming back. Plus it’s absolutely frightening.

img 0230alex smallWhat's your favourite line from the show?
AM: "I am not an Irving".
WB: “I felt confused, teased by it, as though it were made up of millions of live fingers that crept over me, hung on to me ad then shifted away again.”

What should audiences expect?
WB: That there’s definitely good reason to be afraid of the dark. This is probably a show best enjoyed in a group, because I for one would not want to drive home alone afterwards (he says with a wink and a wry smile).
AM: To have their senses challenged and to be on the edge of their seat. It also may awaken old thoughts and feelings they made have had in regards to their own lives.

Season: 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 May 7.30pm

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 11:32
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