The Woman in Black is a thriller, which was taken from the novel by Susan Hill. It was about a solicitor who is sent to look at the legal documents of an old lady who has recently died in a large house. Elements such as a mysterious deaths and large houses in remote locations are often used in the thriller genre. When the man checks the documents he is locked in and haunted by the spectral “woman in black” and slowly uncovers the horrific secrets that lie within the house.
The style of performance wasn’t naturalistic as the actors talked directly to the audience. It was performed quite originally, in a way that an actor was performing a story as it was told to him, and shockingly as he acts it out the events reoccur. This is a very unusual and effective way of performing a ghost story. The style of performance fit the plot exceedingly well, even making it more interesting and aiding the twist in the conclusion of the play.Order now
The acting was extremely convincing. The two actors managed to play several different roles convincingly. A clever device was used: the characters would bump into each other after walking away, and from then on they’d be different characters after that initial moment. They also changed things important for characterisation, such as: voice, gesture and posture. Not only did this define the characters clearly, I thought this was excellent and a credit to their acting abilities.
The same basic set was kept the same throughout the play; however, subtle changes were made. For example: stairs at the top of the set were revealed when the upstairs of the house were being occupied. Also at some points another section was lit where either a bedroom or a graveyard would show. This was extremely effective and the changes were not seen at all by the audience as it was concealed by focusing the attention on another section of the stage. I have drawn a diagram to illustrate this. The sets supported the production by adding parts of the house which revealed important plot points. Without the set changes this couldn’t have been done as effectively.
Lighting helped to establish where the scene was set. When it was dark and one single spotlight was on the centre with the crate, you knew it was the pony and trap. The clever lack of light during the night times helped us establish the time, where Mr Kipps only had a small lantern beside him. Lighting was used most effectively to ascertain the atmosphere throughout. Lights were dimmed to make moment more eerie and mysterious than others, and lit drastically to create shock and terror.
Costumes helped identify different characters. The actors did this by quick costume changes, with items of clothing which were associated with them. For example: a large coat was slipped on and off the clothes rack when characters were switched. The woman in black’s robe hid most of her, allowing and helping us to imagine our own ghostly image from the haunting descriptions and actions given through the play. You could tell certain characters social hierarchy by the way they dressed, which helped us to see if they were locals and knew about the woman in black. This was all done well and simplistically, without abusing or overdoing the amount of costumes or props which could have easily ruined it.
The only visible use of make-up was to make the woman in blacks face extremely pale and ghastly. It was used to create a dramatic effect, which also fitted the descriptions and stories in the play. I think that this helped the actress to get into character and also aided the two other actors to react to her performance and make the play, as a whole, more convincing.
A child’s music box was used for an astonishingly terrifying purpose in the play. This melodic tune was twisted, warped and perverted into something extremely sinister. It was used every time the child or his bedroom was mentioned. As he died under suspicious circumstances, we relate the song with him and so it is used to frighten us and gives us a sense of foreboding every time it is used, which was the desired effect. This was an excellent idea which was brilliantly executed throughout the play, without being used to the excess so it would still be poignant in our minds.
The rhythm was excellently paced, with it varying enough to hold my attention fixatedly throughout. New information was given and hinted at multiple moments, making the play’s plot deepen and accelerate as it got even more complicated, exciting and terrifying. Its atmosphere was well placed, with the right mix of suspense, mystery and terror created by the horror filled screams, eerie music and frightening narration.
If I were the director of this production I wouldn’t give so much information away at the beginning, especially regarding the letters on the gravestone as it made the plot extremely easy to figure out and left a sense of impatience when more and more clues were needlessly thrown at us. However, this could be used to create dramatic irony instead of predictability; however, in this case it was too ambiguous to fathom whether the plot was meant to be known by the audience at the beginning or not.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the production and was sufficiently terrified several days after it. Its subtle sound affects to instil terror such as hoof beats and music boxes are extremely affective on leaving a lasting affect, while the shrill, piercing screams created a thoroughly successful fright immediately. This excellently structured plot coupled with amazing acting, lighting, sound and set design made it a memorable performance that is worthy of being titled a thriller.