I have seen this popular play many times over the years and it still surprises me - as it does wide-aged group audiences who have been mesmerised by it for more than 33 years.

It has been a mainstay in the West End and now it is on tour again - an ideal pre-festive theatre treat.

It is a celebration of all that is inventive and creative about live theatre.

And it is where sound and lighting play a huge part in the proceedings. Atmosphere and illusion contribute to the horror.

The audience also have to use their individual and collective imagination throughout and this is a massive part of the overall enjoyment.

Expect the unexpected.

It is a two-hander, but I must acknowledge the mysterious spectre of the title and Spider the dog.

All becomes clear about these 'characters' as the story unfolds - layer by layer.

The Liverpool Playhouse is an ideal setting for this striking period play where you will be taken on a ghost train of a journey to the isolated Eel Marsh House.

This current production is first class in every sense.

Every spook and crannie adds to the suspense during a two-hour running time - including an interval to catch your breath or have a stiff drink.

It is beautifully-paced and your attention is not allowed to waver for a moment.

So what is The Woman in Black about?

Without giving anything away, if you like a well staged ghost story then this is something you should not miss.

If you have seen it before there's elements in this slick and polished version that you may have forgotten in the play within a play format.

We meet Arthur Kipps (Malcolm James) an endearing solicitor with an emotional scar who wants a young actor to tell story to the world - an exorcism of sorts.

Arthur believes there is a curse on his family put on him by the enigmatic 'woman in black' whose estate he once had to administrate.

Revenge is more than bitter sweet.

The actor (Mark Hawkins) puts himself totally into the role and we the audience go along with them for the nightmare gothic roller coaster of a ride.

Director Robin Herford and Stephen Mallarratt who adapted Susan Hill"s novel, use every theatrical illusion and atmospheric device to maximum moody effect.

Dry ice has never been more unsettling.

Like a ticking clock, a tense picture is built up scene by scene.

I was jolted out of my seat once again - I certainly didn't see some special effects coming.

As the story unfolds shrieks of nervous laughter resonated around the theatre.

If you want a proper old-fashioned fright before Christmas then this is for you.

The top-notch cast and production team pull out all the stops to make you feel pleasantly uncomfortable but truly chilled and thrilled.

Verdict: five stars - all the fun of the scare...

It is on until December 30

Tickets from 0151 709 4776