Everyone loves a good scare, which means everyone should go to see The Woman In Black.
It's the story of Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor who is sent to look after the affairs of Alice Drablow, a client in a remote market town. At the funeral of the client, Arthur sees a young woman with a wasted face standing in the churchyard. Intrigued by the locals reluctance to discuss he, he digs deeper into the story, discovering the secret of the woman in black, to his own terrible cost. I really can't go into much more of the plot without spoliing things for you.
It's a two-handed play, more of a play within a play in fact, with the actors making the best of the sparse set and actively encouraging the audience to use their imaginations. Both actors are excellent, especially the older gent who gets to play almost every part. The framing device of the old Arthur Kipps wanting advice on how to tell his story works incredibly well, and I was genuinely amazed with the speed he was able to change his entire characterisation.
I was also amazed with the sheer quality of the scares. The play employs several ways of making you jump out of your skin - this is a quality psychological thriller. The titular woman in black only appears a few times, but each time she does the audience screams in terror. This is because they build up the anticipation of her appearances so well. Less is definitely more in this case.
If you want scares, but with a decent story behind them, get yourself to the Fortune Theatre pronto. Woman In Black is one of London's longest running plays for a very good reason.
Another plus - I originally had tickets for the circle, but when I went to collect them the box office manager gave me a free upgrade to the stalls (mostly because I'm 6'6" and he felt he couldn't subject me to the tiny legroom of the front row of the circle). Top marks to him, and a warning to the rest of you - it's a small theatre with limited legroom in the circle.
On a recent trip to London, I went to see The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre in London's Covent Garden. After seeing the film, which was terrifying, I was a little nervous about seeing this play. My flatmate and I had to go to a matinee as it wasn't being shown the night we were in London and we managed to get front row seats for a really good price.
As we walked into the theatre, it was filled with smoke which set the scene really well. Walking into that theatre made me think back to the film and the scary, misty moors near the dead woman's house and it instantly made me a bit creeped out. Unfortunately, as this was a matinee, there was a school visit and the theatre full of teenagers ruined my mood quite quickly.
The lights go down, more smoke is put into the theatre and the story begins. Arthur Kipps (played by Ken Drury) takes the stage and begins to read out the beginning of his tale. However, he is quickly interrupted by an actor (played by Adam Best) running down the center isle of the theatre, who tells him to start over again and to put some feeling into the reading. Kipps has come to the actor in order to get his story heard, to have some help and advice about how to tell it to his family. The beginning of the play is quite funny, with Kipps and the actor arguing about what should be done and how it should be done.
However, the actor soon takes over, convincing Kipps to play out the parts and the actor to play a younger Kipps. This is where the story really gets going and although there are a few small breaks in-between scenes, with Kipps and the actor going home for the day etc., it is quite smooth going and it wasn't very disjointed at all. The play, while slightly different to the film in places, explains what happened to Kipps once he went to Eel Marsh House.
There are only two actors names for this play. There is actually three although it doesn't say anywhere who actually plays the woman in black. All three actors were fantastic in their parts and very convincing. Drury shows real concern about performing his story and even more concerned about even telling it. He seemed like a really lovely old man who really did play the part well. Then there is Best who plays the actor. He adds some humour into a very dark and dramatic play which lightens up the story a little bit for the audience.
The woman in black was absolutely terrifying and I really wish we could know who played her. The few times she does pop up throughout the play scared me to death and I wasn't expecting it all of the time. Sometimes she is right near the audience, running down the aisles and popping up right in front of the front row. The set of this play is very basic with only 2 sets of scenery being used. However, there were some inventive ways of showing the woman in black and hiding her on stage so that she could jump out.
This play is obviously one not suitable for children although the teenagers in the theatre seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. There was plenty of screaming throughout the play which shows just how scary it was. I would definitely recommend seeing this play, especially if like me, you didn't think a play would scare you.
Everyone has a story to tell? Some are good and some are bad. One of the charecters in this spine chilling play has a tale to scare with twists and turns which he feels he needs to tell. He takes the help of a young actor to retell the tale which lead him to a remote country house in the middle of a marsh and the mysterious woman in black.
I will keep the rest of the plot a secret as this is best seen without knowing what is going to happen next. The basic premise is that it is set in a theatre (oopps giving more stuff away though with good reason!) which make the small and intimate Fortune Theatre an ideal venue. This production has been here for some years and is highly regarded and one of the scariest plays around. It's not full blown scream fest all the way through but rather a tense thriller where you are on the edge of your seat waiting for the next scare whilst at the same time being entranced by the sad tale which is being played out before you.
There are twists and turns the whole way through and the final twist is one which will surprise you. The staging and effects are a master class in stage tension and scares. And the two cast members who play the parts of the man whose tale must be told and the young actor are equally good.
Overall I love this play and even on a second visit it is still as tense and scary. Be warned if you watch an evening performance walking through the streets near the theatre after watching this play your mind can play all sorts of tricks on you!!
The woman in black was one of the most amazing plays I have ever seen. A solicitor named Arthur Kipps tries to tell a story, a true story which he experienced when he was a young man. He has carried the horror with him for a majority of his life but now has realised that it is time to set it free.
In hopes of parting with his story he wishes to tell it to his family and friends, in doing so he hires a young actor. At first the actor is not sure whether to help Arthur further but with a desperate plea Arthur persuades him otherwise.
Arthur Kipps as a young man was sent to sort out an old woman's house and documents. He first goes to the funeral of Mrs. Drablow out of respect; out of nowhere the Woman in black is first seen attending the funeral. As he stands outside on his first visit to the house, a horse and trap appears before him, the sound of a terrifying scream fills his ears as the horse and trap is pulled deep into the Marshes, surrounding the house. The sound so frightening it chills you to the marrow.
The amazement is that with only three actors the play is filled with blood curling screams, many from the audience themselves. It is the scarcest play I have ever seen and a must to see again and again.
The Woman in Black, written by Stephen Mallatrat is based on the novel by Susan Hill. It opened at the Fortune Theatre in London's west end in 1989 and has played to audiences of over two million since, being the second longest running play in the West End, after The Mousetrap. The gothic formula of the novel is realized on stage with great ingenuity through the use of meta-theatre as a way in for modern audiences skeptical of the realities of the stage.
The play opens with a virtually bare stage, a young actor, and Arthur Kipps: a man with a tragic tale to tell. Wanting some training in telling his tale to his family, he becomes the unwilling participant in a reenactment of the haunting events that happened to him. This self-aware approach helps to slowly break down the barriers of many of the audience who turn up demanding to be scared.
To reveal the plot would be a real spoiler, beyond saying that we find ourselves in a gothic deserted house which rises out of the isolated misty moors, being confronted with the tragic deaths that have cursed all who have live there. As you can see the setting and basic premise is an all-too familiar one in the world of fright, and yet this piece achieves timelessness.
Little do the audience know as they confidently mock its lack of any real fright in the interval, that by the end a good few of them will be screaming!
Stephen Mallatratt - Playwright
Andrew Jarvis - Arthur Kipps
Timothy Watson - The Actor
Susan Hill - Author
Robin Herford - Director
Michael Holt - Designer
Kevin Sleep - Lighting Designer
Seán Brosnan - (Understudies the part of Arthur Kipps)
Toby Sharp - (Understudies the part of The Actor)
Jon Huyton - Company Stage Manager
Sian Kemp - Deputy Stage Manager
Amy Quinn - Assistant Stage Manager
Caroline Stroud - Sound Operator
PW Productions - Producers
Fortune Theatre, Covent Garden
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 8pm
Matinees: Tuesday 3pm, Saturday 4pm
The performance runs for approximately 2 hours.
Box Office: 0870 060 6626
Open Monday to Saturday 10am - 8pm to personal callers
Ticketmaster: 0870 534 4444 (24 hour credit card booking)
A £3.00 processing fee per transaction applies
Stalls: £39.00, £29.00
Dress Circle: £39.00, £29.00
Upper Circle: £23.00, £13.50
(New Upper Circle price takes effect from 22 Dec 08 - £13.50 increases to £16.50)
A £1 restoration levy charged by the theatre is included in the ticket price
I have seen The Woman in Black four times. As an avid theatre goer, I invite you to a unique and engaging performance. As a Drama teacher, I invite you to experience a superb example of what Antonin Artaud called 'Theatre of Cruelty'.
Susan Hill, the writer of the novel on which Stephen Mallatrat based the play, had a simple idea. She trawled through a mountain of gothic tales and ghost stories, looking for the basic formula that would grip a reader, scare and thrill them. In my opinion, the novel is good.
What Mallatrat does with the stage play is inspired. Rather than adapting the novel directly, he creates a piece of meta-theatre that not only overcomes the limitations of a theatre and cynicism of a modern audience, but embraces them.
The play opens with a virtually bare stage and two characters. One is a young, virile and enthusiastic Actor. The other, an older uncomfortable gentleman, Arthur Kipps. The unfolding plot of play has been written by Kipps who wants to - no, needs to - relay it to his family. He has come to the Actor for lessons.
These opening scenes draw us into the style of the play. The bare stage is peppered with simple objects, a couple of chairs, a bucket. These are used to create an office, a railway carriage and numerous other spatial features. The actors play all the parts between the two of them - the Actor takes on the role of a younger Arthur Kipps, while Kipps takes on every other part who interacts with him. Each of these characters has their own physical and vocal traits, and it must be an exhausting role for an actor.
The first half of the show provides exposition and the opportunity for the audience to get used to the minimalist approach. Of the many students I have taken to see the show, very few have maintained a cynical disassociation from the narrative throughout the play. We gradually lose the framing device of Actor tutoring Kipps and are drawn wholey into Kipps' tragic story.
To reveal more about the plot would be to spoil the experience for you. If you want additional information, or to learn more about the evolution of the novel into the play, have a look at the official website.
This contains a teachers resource pack full of interviews and background information.
The show is suitable for everyone. It is scary, VERY scary, not because of any gore or horrific action - but because it plays with your mind in very simple, effective ways. Young children might like it, but they might be a little too scared. Personally, I'd take my niece, and she's five.
You can see the show as part of a hotel package. If you want to book tickets independently I recomment the half price ticket booth in Leicester Square. They always have tickets available for the Woman in Black, but you should arrive early and you don't get to choose where you sit.
Now, go and see it!
'The chilling tale of the Woman In Black unfoldes before their eyes, captivating the audience and delving deep into thier emotions, toying with thier minds.'
I feel it is omoung the most frightning and clever plays that i have ever seen.
i found the cast of two adds so much to the uniqueness of the play, and i feel in no way spoills it.
when i first heared that there was only two actors thoroughout the whole peice i was shocked.
prier to the preformance i thought that only having two actors would make it incredibly boring, a task to sit through, i would never have thought that the amount of tension and suspence would be maintained.
I was proved wrong, as soon as i steped foot inside the theater and the openg lines resounded around the fortunes walls, i could tell this was going to take me on an incredible jerney that i personally would undertake.
I new i would be there with the actors feeling every emotion, almost like i was part of the preformance.
And indeed i was, the actors almost used the audience as a prop, and a s 'Actor' states in one of the opening scenes:
'We use our imaganation and our audience.'
i left the horrific atmosphire of the fortune, only then did i come to my sences to realise that this was not a true story, hard to belive as it was so realistic and convinceing, but then and to this day it still feels as real as when the curtins came up for the first time in feb 1989.
A wonderfully clever preformance, i recomend it to everyone and enyone, a must see!!
By Anna Brodie
This is a notably successful ghost story that's been running in London's fashionable West End since 1989. Adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from a story by Susan Hill, it's a skilful pastiche of Victorian or Edwardian ghost stories, perhaps most obviously taking inspiration from MR James. It has the classic James plot - civilised, rationalist man goes to isolated rural area and runs afoul of malignant spectres. The plot goes like this: In an unspecified Northern coastal town, sometime in the Nineteenth Century, an old lady, Mrs Drablow, has just died, leaving her sinister house and bundles of paperwork. In London her lawyers send the young Kipps oop north to attend her funeral and put her affairs in order. Kipps hopes to get the job done as quickly as possible, so as to return to London and his fiancée. Upon arrival he observes that all the locals react with suspicion and fear when he mentions his business. (You know, like when someone in a Hammer horror asks the local innkeeper the way to scenic Castle Dracula.) Unperturbed by all this, he resolves to crack on with the task in hand, rational sort of chap that he is. And that's pretty much all I can tell you of the plot, as anything else would spoil it. As you might imagine, it all hinges on a woman in black. There is, of course, a framing narrative. What Victorian ghost story would be complete without one? Mr Kipps, now an older man, is determined to tell of his experiences in Mrs Drablow's house. He's written it out as a short story, and proposes to read it to an invited audience. He has hired an actor to help him prepare. The actor, however, complains that no one will be able to sit through Kipps' story, and after a certain amount of discussion, the two act out the story as if it were a play, with the actor playing the young Kipps, and Kipps himself playing all the other parts. (We, the audience, only learn what happened as the two men act it out - the play-within-a-play
is the really important bit.) This may seem like a rather convoluted way of doing things, but it is ultimately incredibly effective. The fact that we're only seeing events second-hand doesn't diminish the effectiveness of the story one jot. It must also make the play extremely profitable, what with only needing two actors. The cast was excellent. Colin Hurley as the actor, slipping in and out of character as the play demanded, was very good, especially when portraying the fear of being alone in an old dark house at night. Pip Donaghy as Kipps was also very good in what is probably the more difficult role, not only playing the man to whom all this actually happened, but also having to jump in and out of many other characters during the course of the play, each of them very effectively realised. The Fortune Theatre, where The Woman in Black plays, is a small, slightly shabby looking theatre off Drury Lane (Covent Garden is the nearest tube, although you'll need a map of some kind if you don't know the area well.) Across the road is the much larger and more impressive looking Theatre Royal, where Anything Goes is currently playing (highly recommended if you like Cole Porter). But the rather down-at-heel nature of the Fortune actually works quite well in the context of the play (and since it's been running there for almost 15 years, I'd imagine the decision to allow the theatre to become a bit grimy was intentional). The theatre dates from the 1920s, and has a typical proscenium arch stage. It has the usual West End theatre stuff: small bars, small toilets, people selling overpriced ice-creams during the interval, effusive reviews hanging outside. Tickets go from £10 to £32.50, and the play lasts about two hours, with interval. (It seemed shorter, but I think that's because it's very well paced.) Myself and my friend had the best seats in the house. I wasn't supposed to be there at all - his girlfriend had
bought them tickets for Hallowe'en as a late birthday present, but then she couldn't go. Heh heh heh. So I got to see it for free. The seats themselves have a serious lack of leg-room, a typical problem in the West End, but my legs aren't particularly long, so it didn't bother me too much. What did annoy me was the number of people near me who chose to sit eating sweets throughout. People making any kind of noise in the theatre always fill me with irrational fury. What kind of mentality does it take to think that you won't be able to sit through a play without a bag of Revels to munch on? The play is very well done, and conjures up a very creepy atmosphere. It also knows when to throw in some nice little humorous bits to lighten the mood. I didn't actually scream, or even jump, at any point. I think I've read so many horror stories, and seen so many horror films, that I know how these things are paced, and so could predict more or less accurately when things were going to happen. This certainly wasn't a problem for most of the other members of the audience, though, who repeatedly screamed like Banshees. This isn't a disturbing, horrifying story, but it is scary (in a fun way), so I suppose you should stay away if you're of a nervous disposition. Probably not something I'd have paid to go and see, I was pleasantly surprised by The Woman in Black. If you're looking for a good bit of commercial theatre in London, you won't do much better. (Well, maybe The Mousetrap, but no force on earth will compel me to see that.)
Pull up a chair. Come here by the fire. I want to tell you story. I'm not impersonating Max Bygraves! I want to tell you a story so frightening that it will make you scream. A tale of horror, redemption, unrequited love and terror. You will grab hold of your partner in fright. But your partner will will be scared too. So don't try and grab onto them as they may not be there when you need them! I'm going to tell you the tale of The Woman In Black......... THE FORTUNE THEATRE- TACKY OR THRILLING **************************************** The Woman In Black has been playing for 13 years at the Fortune Theatre in London. Situated near Convent Garden- you may think as you arrive- "What am I coming to see?" As you walk into the theatre which is in need of lick of paint you may think that the old building is a bit tacky. Gold bars surround the box office and the carpets look fit for the bin. But it's only when you take your seat to watch this popular chiller that you realise that the theatre suits the play. It's not tacky. It's eccentric looking, old, creaky and even a trip to the loo during the interval will make you jump! With its low ceilings and low hanging balcony and long gawdy curtains- The Fortune Theatre adds to The Woman In Black experience. I SEE DEAD PEOPLE......AGAIN! ****************************** Imagine every ghost story that you have been told and up the fear factor by 10! Did you enjoy The Others and The Sixth Sense? Did these films make you jump? Imagine the intimacy of a very old West End theatre. A woman sits in a rocking chair- moving violently. Two men recall a blood curdling tale of death, destruction and ultimately revenge as the figure they describe walks amongst you! You will need more than a Werthers Originals bag to grab during the interval, I assure you! The hook to grab you is in the story-telling in the first part of act one. You will see nothing at first. The
build up is dramatic enough to make up for this. MIND GAMES *********** I do not want to go into too much plot detail as this would totally ruin the play. But like recent films The Others and What Lies Beneath- the fear here is actually what you do not see. You will hear screams but you do not know where they are coming from. You will see a face of fear and then after one blink of your eye that face is gone. Or is she? The cleverness of the imagery on show here is that once you have shut your eyes to block your fear- the face returns in your imagination- like a bolt from the blue. Just when you recover from that shock- there is another one waiting in the wings! Lighting takes the place of flying limbs and chainsaws. This is an old fashioned play but one which offers you brand new thrills without once resorting to bloodshed in place of suspense. MINIMAL ACTING *************** There are only two actors in The Woman In Black. They dominate the stage with every twitch, stare and excellent use of red herring scares. As the two recall their tale- you will find yourself cowering in your seat. You will also forget that you have watched two actors act like their lives depended on it. The stage is so filled with your imagination and mind playing tricks on you that you forget you are watching a play. Who needs a huge cast when the suspense is this good?!! GRIPPING, SIMPLE EFFECTS ************************** Mist,darkness, bright torches, candles, rocking chairs, gravestones- all of the classic thriller mise en scene are evident from every angle of the stage. With an excellent use of sound and superb lighting effects- you will see why The Woman In Black is still working its magic on audiences after all these years. The simple things in life are used to great effect here. But there is more than enough going on for you not to get bored or think about why you aren't watching a bigger budget play with a sta
rry cast. SUSPENSE IS THE KEY ******************** The key to the success of the play is the suspense. As the plot unfolds it reminds you of reading a great book. You are keen to find out what happens next. The fast moving plots of Hollywood films are forgotten as you are taken back to the Hitchcock school of suspense where less is more. If you like 'fast' plays which cover alot of plot at a fast rate- then maybe this is not for you. The play is slow but effectively so. The term 'slow burning' was invented for this production. Once you surrender yourself to the fear that is the key to it all- you will have a great time. SCREAM IF YOU WANNA GO FASTER ****************************** If you like to watch things that go bump in the night and laugh at it all afterwards nervously, this play is for you. I have never seen an audience jump so much in my life. When the play started you could almost feel the "Come on then. Scare me!" vibe coming from the audience. This soon turned into "Leave Me Alone!" after the first hour! The contrast in the audiences mood was really noticeable! Was I scared? Um...yeah! The effect that this play has on you is unlike anything else. If you scare easily it may be best to see Starlight Express. The mythology that the production has garnered is well documented. But is any of it justified? Well, I have seen The Woman In Black twice now and both times- I have heard screaming- not from the stage! I heard screaming from the stalls! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! The Woman In Black is playing at the Fortune Theatre, London. BLACK FACT: Over two million people have seen the play. REVIEWS: "DON'T GO UNLESS YOU LIKE BEING SCARED OUT OF YOUR WITS." Sunday Mirror "PREPARE FOR SLEEPLESS NIGHTS." Daily Express "A BRILLIANTLY EFFECTIVE SPINE CHILLER- IT PLAYS ON ALL OUR PRIMAL FEARS." The Gu
ardian "A TRULY NERVE SHREDDING EXPERIENCE." Daily Mail If you would like more details go to: www.ticketmaster.co.uk www.whatsonstage.com www.thewomaninblack.com Thanks for reading. You can turn the light off now! Glenn
Since June 1989 the Fortune Theatre in Covent Garden has been home to The Woman in Black, adapted from the Susan Hill novel by Stephen Mallatratt, making this the second longest running West End production, baby sister to the Mousetrap. When we accepted the tickets, I knew nothing more than that it was a ghost story, and the programme, while filling in a lot of information about the process and the cast, is careful not too give away too much of the plot - an example I will try and follow. The cast is small - two main characters - and the action takes place upon a single set. However this gives the actors a real chance to shine, as this is not least a play about plays, about the act of acting. The action starts with a lone figure, perched at the front of the stage, reading, fumblingly, the first few lines of a memoir, until heartily interrupted from the audience by a man, who, we realise is his producer or acting coach.. This unusual start has the effect of drawing the audience into the world of the play, and sets up the first layer of acting and imagination. Arthur Kipps (played by Frank Barrie, who made the show for me) has written his memoirs of a particular period of his life, and seeks the assistance of an actor in preparing to present them to an audience of family of friends. Mr. Kipps is at pains to point out that this is not to be an entertainment, rather an accounting of facts, to lay bare the truth of the matter. The Actor is equally adamant that without at least an element of performance, no audience member will stay awake long enough to hear the story. Thus in the second layer of pretence, The Actor takes on the role of Mr. Kipps for the sake of the future performance, and Mr. Kipps takes on all the supporting roles - of which there must be 12 or 4 in the course of the play. They use a few simple props (a giant wicker travelling case, changes of coats and hats, a suitcase and knapsack) to suggest to their imagined audience, a
nd to the actual playgoers, the changing settings and events. In addition the actual audience has the advantage of some fantastic lighting effects and a 'secondary' set, behind a gauze, where the same shadowed shapes become by turn backstage at the theatre, a graveyard, and the upstairs room of the mysterious haunted house. Further into the play we find Frank Barrie, acting the role of Mr. Kipps, who is acting the role of a longstanding resident of the haunted village, who is accounting, dramatically, his understanding of the original story – some three or four levels of acting and presentation. This could be confusing, and in the initial few minutes it is, but the actors skills in taking on the body language and voice of each sub-character prevents this becoming muddled, and encourages the audience to willingly surrender disbelief. The actors movement and actions, together with these simple effects and props, create a picture probably more vivid than any film set could equal, using the power of the audience's imagination The chief effect is that of recorded sound, which is used to terrifying effect throughout. Eerie lighting, suspense, and sound create an incredible atmosphere - I didn't scream, but those around me did, and I left the theatre emotionally drained - total catharsis - from the suspense and the shocks. In many ways this is a 'real' ghost story, a bit like Blair Witch in a way, rather than a spooks and special effects show - and all the more chilling for it. Incredible use of fairly basic lighting (drawing the pale face of the Woman in Black out of the shadows, or creating a clawed cage from the shadow of a hand around a nightlight) sets the scene. The production very cunningly returns us through the levels of acting and storytelling to the present, without ever providing closure upon the Woman in Black, who appears in each level of the story coming closer and closer to reality. By being left out of t
he bowing and applause, and also the programme, she is left 'real' whilst all the other acted roles are stripped away. The pattern of the story sets up a dread in the audience - like Blackbeard, all those who pry into the secrets of the Woman In Black will be punished horrifically. Will The Actor's family be affected by the curse, as he too has pried, and seen the Woman in Black? - will we? In a play of illusions and make believe, not allowing the central Woman to pierce the illusion and step in front of us as a mortal actress leaves the audience unsettled and involved. This is pure gothic drama - visceral and immediate, acting on emotions not reason, and therein lies its charm. I can't imagine anyone being bored with this, although I certainly wouldn't recommend it for younger children, or anyone who's highly strung. From what I gather in conversation the play bears no real resemblance to the film of the same name, and I am definitely going to have to read the novel to find out how adapted the story as been. But this is a fantastic (in all its meanings) piece of theatre, which suits the slightly shabby, slightly haunted, intimate venue down to the ground. If you ever get the chance, go and see it - a must if you love horror, or if you've ever sat around telling ghost stories by torchlight, and given yourself the scares! Even if you think you don't like live theatre, this could be the play to change your mind.
Don't you just love all scary stories!? Whether there ghostly or monsterous, you usually love 'em' like I do, or you just quite plainly, simply hate 'em'! Each weekend, well not literally EVERY weekend, but some weekends, I sit down in front of the telly and if there isn't any decent comedies on, I'll simply watch a horror movie instead, ok, ok, so maybe sometimes I'll pull a pillow over my head and then other times I'll jump and maybe even scream but they are fun to watch aren't they!? This week has been, 'THANK GOD' the last week of school for myself and many others too, this means a it has been a supposedly FUN week for me!! (SUPPOSEDLY!!) One of my main attractions of the week happened on Tuesday, on Tuesday I went to London on an English/Drama school trip to a theatre called the 'Fortune Theatre' to watch 'The Woman In Black'. Taking drama next year as an option to do at GCSE level, I was rather looking forward to the trip, especially as it was a horror genre. The theatre itself didn't look that great, so things didn't get off to a good start, with all the surrounding theatres looking smart and pleasant, the 'Fortune theartre' looked a little out of place, with Martine McCutcheon starring in 'My Fair lady' around the cornor, this theatre suddenly lost all my interests. Then as I entered the theatre to go to the toilet, I got sent down 3 flights of stairs underground, which seemed really creepy and damp, then the toilets themselves weren't that great either!!! With 2 whole cubicles the size of a cardboard box I really was anticiapting the theatre and the production!! The theatre was very different to other theatres I've visited, but then I was in london and coming from Colchester in Essex things were VERY different! The theatre was about roomsize width with 1000's of flights of seats literally over hanging the stage itself, I found mysel
f sitting on the row below the top one which didn't look good, I was very high and had to even lean to see most of the stage!!! The production itslelf though, thankfully was of great quality, although the whole thing only consisted of 3 actors, the story was amazing and put across very well. I won't give away the whole plot but basically, 'The Woman In Black' is a play about the production title, the woman in black appears as a ghostly figure most of the time, she slowly unfolds a twisted and complicated, horrific mystery. The first scene is the introduction to the 2 main characters, both males, though one quite young and the other pretty old. The audience sees the old man ask the young man for a favour. The old man wants a production of past events in his life, the young one agrees that they can work together to complete the production under certain circumstances and that of course he gets paid. Here the weird and twisted plot starts to unfold. The old mans past is basically the whole plot, he once visited a haunted house when he was younger and the 'goings ons' inside the house is brought up and re-acted out with great use of special camera and light affects. The noise affects were also great, with all these uses of technical eqipment the production was enable to become so realistic and believable. I found myself jumping at certain times, then a couple of times there was a recorded voice of a curdling scream which chilled blood and made members of the audince scream too. There were many other scary and freaky points to the production, none of which I will give away. Without giving any more of the plot away, I will try and carry on. The theatre production comes from the novel written by Susan Hill, although I have not read the novel, I'm sure it's worth a read. However, the novel was re-adapted by author, Stephen Mallatratt and has now been running for over ten years in the West End. (I believe n
early 15 years now!) Although the production wasn't as good as any horror movie that I've ever watched, it was so realistic it was fantastic, it made me cringe inside and it definintely chilled my blood. That night, I could unbelievably think of nothing else apart from what happened in the production! Thinking of the woman in black is making things curl up inside! I think I've explained my horrific meeting with the 'Woman In Black' quite well, now it's time for beddie byes!! Sweet dreams everyone! Thanks for reading ~M~ PLEASE NOTE, WHERE IT SAYS, 'PRICE' BELOW I PAYED £7.50 FOR MY TICKET AS A REDUCED SHOOL PARTY PRICE. THANKS.
When I began working in theatre, I joined the production company, P W Productions, which is responsible for producing Woman In Black. The play had been running for about 8 months and had begun to pick up a reputation as being a good alternative to the Mousetrap. Now some 10 years later, it is still running and will hopefully do so for a long time to come. I knew nothing of this production and asked not to be informed prior to my first visit two days into my new job. My ignorance was quickly replaced by horror as I realised that the show was in fact a re-enactment of a ghost story......probably the worst scenario I could imagine (apart from a musical, that is). I almost turned away, only devotion to my new job and an eagerness to please my new bosses made me enter the theatre that night. The intimacy of the Fortune is perfect for this play as you almost feel that you are sitting listening to some elderly uncle telling you all about his past. A perfect setting, being a little worn and tired but nevertheless an excellent example of a good traditional theatre, well used and loved. I will say nothing of the plot, as it had been said before, but I will say that I was not prepared for the spectacle which awaited me. I have never before nor since seen a two-hander performed so well, with no interuptions, pauses or delays. I sat on the edge of my seat and the interval found me gripping the bar with my G&T in hand. The sound of the three bells had me racing back into the theatre and almost wishing I had brought the obligatory cushion to hide behind. I was totally riveted and more than a little terrified. The sound effects had everyone jumping and quite a few screams were heard. I very soon forgot that I was watching only two actors on a somewhat empty stage. As the story unfolded, the props took on a life of their own and the actors really did become the characters they portrayed. I was there.... and only just managed to stop myself from
calling "look out behind you" as the ghostly figure of the Woman In Black swirled around the stage. At this point sorting out reality does become a problem because, in common with most West End Theatres, the Fortune is said to have a resident ghost and you are not sure whether the WIB is part of the production, or the ghost coming out to play. By the end of the play, I think I was under the seat, partly since the Woman in Black herself actually had the same surname as mine and the friend with me was called Jennet.......the Christian name of the character. The names Jennet and Humphries are both unusual and we were shocked and terrified when we heard the name Jennet Humphries as being the name of the Woman In Black. We visibly shook throughout the whole play. I couldn't believe that this was a coincidence and had convinced myself that this was a practical joke played on me as an initiation ceremony into the world of theatre. We clung to each other as we exited the theatre into the misty evening and home by underground. The next morning I bounced into work declaring that I had thoroughly enjoyed the evening and triumphantly announced that I had seen through the practical joke. It soon became apparent that no-one understood what I was talking about and the terrifying truth that the character name was actually Jennet Humphries suddenly hit me. When I regained the power of speech and told my colleagues of the coincidence, the office became silent for a good few minutes as the blood drained from faces and temporary paralysis set in. This to me was just as frightening as the show itself as I truly felt the power of the Woman In Black. This was a true incident and evidence of this was written in the company diary at the time. Although I worked on the WIB for a good few years after that, being involved in numerous changes of cast (every 12 weeks), many parties and celebrations, weekly accounts and reports to investors
......I could never again watch the show. I recommended it to all my friends and family, delivering them to and collecting them from the theatre but I could not enter........yes the show was frightening and very entertaining but the real-life coincidence was just too scary for me. The team working on and behind that particular show is very small and perhaps that is one of the main reasons why it is so good. True professionals dedicated to the art of theatre and not prepared to compromise at any cost. Every change of cast brought something new and different to the roles but the name of Jennet Humphries still remains the same to this day....... and will probably haunt me forever. Excellent writing, adaptation, lighting and set design all combine to produce an effect which is so real and exciting, that you forget where you are and that you are not part of the story.....and that really is the clever part......because you are so involved in the tale that you believe that you are living it. If you see no other show in London this year, you must see Woman In Black....it truly is a master-piece of traditional theatre. Over-produced, over-expensive and over-played musicals come in and out of the West End every other week but playing beside one of the grandest theatres in London, is one of the finest shows I have seen - albeit up a sidestreet and off the beaten track. I would certainly recommend it to anyone and most folk go back again and again. :-) On of my favourite treasures of my time in theatre is a copy of the WIB programme with my name printed inside. To be associated with this production was truly an honour.
I was recommended this play by a friend who had been down to the big smoke a few weeks before me, and she said that this show was amazing. Although I don't share her enthusiasm I would say that this is a very good production. It has a bit of a Bram Stoker's Dracula feel to it when a young man has to go and see to the affairs of a house out in the country down a dark misty path, add a few Hitchcockesque ideas and you should have a perfect thriller. And it comes very close... There are only three actors in the play, one of whom plays the Woman in Black and says nothing for the duration. The other two actors play a total of around 7 parts between them, and they are surpringly very effective. When I first heard about this I was slightly put off and was going to opt for something a little more mainstream like, God forbid, Starlight Express. I am very glad I didn't. Swift costume, and voice, changes blend well with the story and narration, and you are not left waiting for the other actor to come out while the one on-stage slows his speech to give him time to change his jacket. The script isn't particulary scary, but it is the direction and excellent performances from all three actors that give you an immense feeling of horror, the sound effects with crying children and screaming women that have you cringing. And then when the mysterious Woman in Black slowly glides down the aisle of the theatre as you suddenly realise she is there beside you, you have to smile quickly to hide your embarrassment at being so scared and jumping two feet out of your chair. This effect is used a few times, and sometimes for comedy effect rather than scariness, and it truly makes the show all the more enjoyable. In some plays such as this there is only ever a scary climax with the rest of the play building up to the finale. Thids play has a very disturbing finale, yet the sections leading up to this are so well acted that the feeling of impend
ing doom and nervous tension has you fixed for the entire show. You won't get bored in this theatre! While the script isn't particularly scary it is rather humourous and some of the quick one-liners would have you laughing for hours after leaving the theatre if the final scenes had not scared you so much. The actress who plays the Woman In Black has an easy job - she sits in the background, allowing the director to do some wierd lighting effects to make her scare people even more, and she is very un-nerving. She doesn't get paid enough to do next to nothing!
I'm a sucker for a good ghost story. They scare the pants off me and stop me from functioning properly for a week, but what's that compared to the rush of adrenaline you get from a really good shock? And The Woman in Black certainly has its fair share of heart-in-mouth moments, made all the more terrifying by the complete lack of special effects. I don't intend to give too much of the plot away here; The Woman in Black, as a ghost story, relies upon the twists and turns of a slowly unfolding mystery to shock the audience. The show opens with two actors in plain clothes walking through the auditorium onto the stage; the premise, you see, is that the action takes place in the theatre itself, the audience is actually watching a play rather than the events themselves. Of the two actors, one is old and one is young. The old man asks the young for a favour - a dramatisation of important events from his past. The young complies (for a fee) and thus the action begins. At this point I must inform the casual reader that the Woman in Black is performed in the Fortune Theatre, one of the West End's oldest and most intimate theatres. Upon arrival at the Fortune my boyfriend and I nearly turned away; it looked so ramshackle, not what you'd expect from a West End theatre - certainly not compared to the Theatre Royal, just round the corner in Drury Lane. How glad am I that we plumped for WiB rather than the Witches of Eastwick, showing in Drury Lane! While McShane and crew have light and sound spectacles at their disposition, WiB has only the actors and props. The basic plot is that the old man visited a haunted house when younger; this house was situated, akin to St Michael's Mount, in a sea-marsh and was only accessible at certain times. Thus he becomes marooned in the house and strange events come to pass... The fact that little to no special effects are used in conveying these events renders them all the more terrifying to the
audience. At one point a blood-curdling scream rips out from nowhere through the theatre, which prompted more than a few audience members to scream themselves during the production I saw! It's difficult to say more without runining the plot. As a student used to amateur productions it was thrilling to see a "real" show with "real" actors in rather than people I know! The Woman in Black is adapted from the book of the same name by Susan Hill, and interested audience members should definitely check it out (it's quite slim too - an added bonus for any fellow English students trying to plough their way through "Pamela"...evil). The adaptation was written by Stephen Mallatratt and has been running for over ten years in the West End. After seeing the WiB I travelled back to Cambridge on the train and had severe problems keeping my head from constantly checking out what was behind me. I would whole-heartedly recommend WiB to any adult theatre or ghost-story lover. Perhaps it's not suitable for kiddies though as there are some really terrifying moments. I've just scared myself again even thinking of the events of WiB, so I'd better stop now and check my room out for ghosties....sleep well everyone...
I have seen this twice and was just as scared the second time, which just shows how effective this play is as a ghost story! The Fortune Theatre is small, dark and slightly shabby looking which makes it perfect for this play. There are only two actors, the set is simple and there are few props. I won't tell you the story as I don't want to spoil anything! It is a good old-fashioned 'sit-around-the-fire-and-scare-the-grandchildren-with-ghost-stories' kind of ghost story. I must warn you that the first half is a little dull (and everyone I know who has seen it agrees with me), but this serves to make the second half even more scary! You will jump out of your skin at some point in the second act. There is no fake blood or extreme violence, but the play seems to get under your skin. I also found myself really caring about what happens to the central character which makes it even more horrific (don't worry I won't tell you what happens!). This play shows theatre at it's best. Both sets of actors I saw were so good and the direction so perfect that I could easily imagine the house, the carriage, the dog etc. I would certainly recommend this play to any theatre goer. The play is very true to Susan Hill's book and I would recommend that as well, it's just as scary.