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Woman In Black - Won't Fade to Grey
Woman in Black
Member Name: spangle359
Woman in Black
Date: 16/05/01, updated on 16/05/01 (319 review reads)
Advantages: excellent production, theatre easy to find, very intimate show
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.
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