Discuss how effective one or more performers were in The Woman in Black using 2 moments to support your answer, commenting on voice movement facial expression, gesture and mood The Woman in Black, a play directed by Robin Herford, has been terrifying its audiences at the Fortune Theatre for twenty one years; we saw the play on Wednesday 29th December Set in Victorian times, The Woman in Black is a ghostly thriller in which the characters are played by just two actors. The actors therefore have to employ a full repertoire of techniques to define the different characters that they have to depict in the play so that the audience can readily identify them .Order now
The story revolves around Arthur Kipps ,played by Michael Mears, a lawyer who is haunted by dreadful events which happened to him many years ago. Desperate to lay the past to rest, he hires a young actor(played by Orlando Wells) to tell his tale. The lawyer is persuaded to act out the story, taking various roles while the actor plays him as a young man. The young Kipps visited the remote and eerie house of a deceased client, Mrs Drablo, where he gradually learned of its tragic history of this place, the ghost that haunted it – and her dreadful purpose. The first scene I have chosen to illustrate the technique of the performer is when the young Mr Kipps is sent to the house of Mrs Dablo. Orlando Wells effectively shows how Kipps becomes more and more uneasy as he approaches his destination on the train.
At first, just after boarding the train, Kipps relaxes back into his seat .His body appears completely at ease; his head slumped back on the top the seat and his eyes shut. At one point his arms are spread across the seat. He sways from side to side , successfully conveying the motion of the train. His skilled mime captures our imagination and transforms the props-a woven basket and a shabby wooden chair – into a train compartment. The lack of realistic props and scenery is in keeping with the overall minimalist style of the entire production. The audience is asked to use its own imagination to conjure up the details. This has the effect of involving us more deeply in the events on stage and in making us accept their veracity.
Soon the actor playing Kipps begins to fidget. His posture is no longer relaxed– at one point his back is firmly pressed up against the chair-and he looks uncomfortable. We sense this outward discomfort is indicative of the inner conflict he is feeling. He communicates his tension to us and it becomes clear that the closer he gets to village , Crythin Gifford, the greater his unease. The impression that is created is that his body is sensing the danger ahead and is responding to this, reflecting the deep anxiety that he is trying (unsuccessfully) to conceal.
We are made to feel that we are sharing the train journey with him. The shifts in posture and movement help convey the impression of time passing as the journey continues. It is an important element of the drama that we get the impression that Kipps is being transported far from his familiar surroundings, away from his ‘comfort zone’ . The journey is a physical one , but he is also going on a psychological journey too where he will have to confront his fears.
At one point the actor playing Kipps opens his eyes wide , gazing out to the audience as if peering out of the train’s windows, his eyes moving from side to side as if following the scenery that is dashing by.This action adds credibility to the scene, convincing us he is on a train. When Kipps begins to shiver he gets up jerkily, conveying the movement of the train, to shut the window. This change in his movements is good stagecraft- it adds interest if the actor is not motionless and keeps our attention.
Kipps puts his head out of the ‘ frame ‘ and then seems to fall back as if there is a strong wind . This reinforces our impression that he is vulnerable, almost losing his balance and his feeling cold and shivering could be a sign of his fear. All these movements also reinforce the impression that he really is on a train, inviting us to suspend disbelief and accept the situation he is in. As the wind pushes the Kipps character backwards , there is even the hint that the elements are foreshadowing the wild and unearthly activity that is to come.
His body language becomes defensive. He crosses his arms, tightly hugging his chest protectively. His discomfort is shown further by the crossing and re-crossing of his legs. As the train pulls into a station, the man’s movement becomes slower and it is apparent the train has come to a complete stop when he suddenly jerks forward . A new passenger enters the compartment. At first, Kipps does not look happy at the intrusion – he sits up straighter, hold himself rather stiffly like people do when their space is invaded- and does not immediately greet the stranger.
Yet before long the two men are talking easily, initially exchanging everyday pleasantries about the weather and journey. Kipps learns that the man , called Simon Daily, is also travelling to Crythin Gifford. Relived to be distracted from his grim work ahead, Kipps becomes more at ease as the light conversation progresses and leans forward towards Samuel Daily , conveying his genuine interest in their conversation and his appreciation for the friendly human contact.