Glimmer of light in dark tale of Woman in Black to be staged in Dubai

UAE audiences will soon be transported to a haunted 19th-century English town for a dose of theatrical terror. The director John Payton talks about staging The Woman in Black this week.

The Woman in Black tells the story of a young lawyer who ends up being haunted by events from his past. Courtesy Popular Productions
Powered by automated translation

It is one of the longest-running theatre productions in London's West End, and The Woman in Black returns to the UAE this month, presented by the London-based Popular Productions (Oliver Twist, Misery).

Having enjoyed a theatrical run since the late 1980s, the play was made into a Hollywood movie earlier this year starring Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Harry Potter role.

The story, based on the novel by Susan Hill, follows the young lawyer Arthur Kipps as he travels to a remote English village to sort through the papers of a deceased woman. He learns that the area is plagued by deadly secrets and haunted by the ghost of a scorned woman.

"It involves the audience immediately. They are asked to suspend disbelief and follow the actors on this extraordinary journey as they create this creepy, atmospheric world that he experienced during his visit to the haunted, eerie marsh and house," says the director John Payton, who brings with him a team of 12 for the production that will be staged in Dubai starting today and in Abu Dhabi in December.

"It is, in essence, more of an immersive total theatre experience than just a play because the action and moments of shock are carefully aimed at involving the audience."

The movie adaptation, says Payton, became the "biggest-selling British horror of all time" partly due to Radcliffe playing Kipps - a character whom the actor David Seddon has been studying for the past 10 years. The show introduces us to two versions of the character he says - the older, haunted man tormented by his dark past and the naive, impetuous youngster for whom the future seems bright.

"The story is a classic gothic horror and the themes of loss and vengeance permeate the entire play, but I also feel that beating at the heart of the play is hope," says Seddon.

"There's also a message about the power of the theatre and the ability it has to fire the imagination."

The Woman in Black will be staged in Dubai from today until November 30, First Group Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah; and in Abu Dhabi from December 4-7, Jaheli Theatre. For more information, visit