The Woman In Black Review

I first saw The Woman In Black stage play back when I was doing my GCSES, as part of our Drama coursework we had to do a theatre review, and that year coming to our local theatre was The Woman In Black. I remember vividly where me and my friends sat, that we attended 'schools night' (where various schools attend one evening show all at once), and also that we were completely terrified by the end of the show. I think everyone fed off each other and as the audience was full of 14 to 16 year olds, we all felt tense and as young people do - their emotions become intensified. So as the woman in black first appears and all the girls are screaming down in the stalls, we're all looking over the balcony and gripping each others hands tightly to see whats going on. The main thing I remember though - was that although we were scared out of our wits and that it was an absolutely incredible show, so when Meg mentioned wanting to see it, and we found out it was not only coming to the Everyman Theatre again but that we could also get £5 tickets, we jumped at the chance to buy them.

The Woman in Black was written in 1983 by Susan Hill and follows the story of Arthur Kipps. Stephen Mallatratt, a playwright, adapted the story into a play back in 1987, before it first appeared on stage in late 1987 before appearing in the West End in 1989; making it the second longest non-musical play within the west end. The story of Arthur Kipps is portrayed completely differently to that of the 2012 film which stares Daniel Radcliffe. On stage, the play only features 2 main characters (excluding that of the actual Woman in Black), The Actor and Arthur Kipps. The Actor - portrayed by Matthew Spencer - is helping an elderly Arthur Kipps (David Acton) to tell the story of his encounter with the woman in black to his family and friends by performing his story on stage. It is obvious at the beginning of the story that Kipps has never performed before, and so he recruits the Actor to help him perform his story. Within their onstage play, The Actor plays a young Arthur Kipps, whilst the 'actual' Arthur Kipps plays various other characters that appear within his story - these include Keckwick - the driver of the Horse and Trap, Mr Bentley - Arthur Kipps employer who sends him to Eel Marsh house and Samuel Daily - who befriends Kipps on his train to Crythin Gifford and who Kipps seeks advice from about Eel Marsh house - as well as the narrator of the story and various other characters Kipps meets along his journey.

At the beginning of the play, they regularly switch from reality into rehearsing 'the play', showing the alternate stories via white and blue lighting. However, towards the second half of the story, The Actor encourages them to rehearse the play continuously without stopping. Although I did enjoy the first part of the story, the switching back and forth between reality and the play, did get slightly irritating. It was understandable as to why they used this technique as it ensured that the audience remembered that they were performing a play within a play, but also to make it slightly more realistic - for example, the day would come to an end, so they'd stop rehearsing the play and come back the next day to continue. However, I found the second half of the play much more enjoyable as it was more continuous for the story and allowed me to get more invested in the story being told.

After the pairing began telling the story, we follow a young Arthur Kipps (aka The Actor) from London, where he receives his assignment, on his journey to Crythin Gifford, and on the horse and trap to Eel Marsh house. This is where Arthur begins seeing the woman in black and hearing creepy noises around the house - the rocking chair with no one in it, the doors slamming and deafening screams. Once this begins he starts unveiling the story of Alice Drablow - the owner of Eel Marsh house up until her recent death, Jennet Humfrye her sister who is the infamous Woman in Black and Jennets son Nathaniel who is adopted by Alice and her husband before his devastating death when he was only 7 years old; and is the sole reason for Jennet becoming the Woman in Black in the first place.

The play entails you to use your imagine quite a lot, the set stays the same throughout the whole play, with the chairs and baskets being used as different props within different scenes. The horse and trap is created by the two baskets, with the actors bobbing up and down and diegetic sound effects of horse hooves. The chairs are used to show Arthur Kipps switching trains for his journey to Crythin Gifford; and the dog that Samuel Daily lends Arthur to keep him company at the house is created by imaginary stroking and patting, along with the actors crouching down to pet the dog and talk to it. I think that all the ways they create these objects is really clever, they do it in such as way that it isn't hard for us to picture the actual objects and fill in the spaces with our imagination; the actors do all the work with their movements and it makes it easy and enjoyable for us to know what they are doing and when. These elements also added humour into the play - although its a tense horror story and for the most part we were sat with our scarves rolled up and covering our faces, the little bit of humour they injected into the play really made a difference. I can't describe how The Actor crouching down and petting an imaginary dog and making a baby face at it is an hilarious combination - but it is. The interaction between The Actor and the real Arthur Kipps whilst they're in the reality element of the play was also hilarious - their personalities just mixing together; David Acton and Matthew Spencer just effortlessly played off each other. Another element that created a lot of laughter from the audience were the very tense moments - where the darkened stage and dragged out silence made everyone believe they were going to get a frightening jump from the Woman in Black and instead a door slammed or there was a loud scream, yet everyone jumped out of their seats anyway - created a huge amount of laughter within the audience, so much so that parts of what were being said on stage were missed.

I would 100% recommend going to see The Woman in Black if you ever gain the opportunity to. It is a wonderfully terrifying show that provides both tension and humour throughout. I'm somebody who has never been a fan of horror films - there is something about this story that I absolutely love. I do remember being a lot more scared when I saw the play the first time but I think that was just because I was much younger. No matter who you are you're guaranteed to jump out of your seat at least once. The lighthearted elements of the play are a nice release to the very tense moments, and the little twists that are injected into the play make it a lot more interesting too - meaning if you have seen the film before it won't even matter as the play is completely different. Although I've already seen the play once, I think if I do ever get the chance to go again, I'd definitely take it. You never entirely remember a play completely and every director is bound to change small elements anyway.

The Woman in Black is currently touring around the UK and playing at the Fortune Theatre in London. To find out more information about the dates and show click here.

"From the start it has been the Theatres business to entertain people...it needs no other business than fun"

Until Next Time,

Alice x
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