We were equally accepting of their creative use of the props, believing the wicker basket to become the pony and trap or a train. This was mainly due to the actor’s use of the multi-functional props like the jolting when on the trap/train, but was helped by other elements, like the recorded sound of the horse’s hooves for the pony and trap. However the actor’s skill alone was enough for us to believe in something. The dog, spider, didn’t exist in any shape or form, yet we believed in him because the actors did. Ben Deery always knew exactly what the dog was doing and where it was onstage, constantly looking at and interacting with it. When Deery and Acton had a scene together with the dog they both looked in the same place, furthering our belief.Order now
The first time we see the woman in black is at the funeral of Alice Drablow. A cross was projected onto the gauze setting the scene, as did the characters smart, black attire and a recording of a funeral passage read in an intoning voice. The stage was dimly lit, creating an air of suspense. Mr Kipps and Mr Jerome had their back to the audience and stood USL as the woman in black entered through the audience. This gave an immediate shock to those sitting near to the aisle as well as keeping up the suspense and tension as the characters couldn’t see her. There positioning on the stage also meant that Mr Kipps had to turn and look DS to see the woman in black, giving us a clear view of his facial expression and therefore reaction. This was not one of horror as I had expected, but despite slight confusion it looked as though he was merely registering another mourner.
This made me doubt that this was the actual woman in black. Up to this point in the play small things had been making us jump, like when the actor fell over two buckets, creating sudden movement (from character falling) and sudden loud sound (from metal buckets falling and bumping into each other) after a period of little sound or action. Equally during the train journey when another train passed by we jumped as the scene had been fairly quiet and had low lighting, so the sudden burst of light, yellow light (representing the light of the passing train) projected onto the gauze and burst of the loud recorded noise of a train was unexpected. This gradually built up our expectation and tension.
The woman dressed in black seemed to be another example of this. The characters then move DS and the change of lighting (it faded to an out of focus leaf gobo with green gels in the DS wash, the cross is no longer being projected) and sound (the passage finishes and is replaced with the sound of ravens, a bird associated with death) shows that they have moved out of the church. Mr Kipps brings up seeing the woman in black; he does it casually, thinking she is another mourner, almost confirming to us that this was another false alarm. However Mr Jerome’s reaction disproves this. His face goes white and looks stiff and controlled, he stays completely still and his posture also suddenly becomes very stiff. His wide eyes give away his fear and intensify ours. He won’t look Mr Kipps in the eye, this lack of eye contact makes Mr Kipps suspicious and frightened and at this point in the play we are so involved with the characters that this heightens our own sense of suspicion and fear.
The Woman in Black makes several appearances throughout the play, most of which are sudden and unexpected, shocking us briefly. The only time I felt genuinely afraid was when the supernatural activity had a build up. The sound of heartbeats and the pony and trap were often used alongside darkness and night-time to do this, building up a foreboding, haunting atmosphere. This was used so much that we learnt to associate it with a terrifying outcome, and by the end of the play seeing/hearing either would immediately fill us with dread, creating suspense and tension. The sound/darkness is then intensified to intensify our reaction and the pace of the sound effects speeds up, scaring us further, until reaching a shocking climax of either the appearance of the Woman in Black or a blood curdling scream that is so loud we can feel it.
Short shocks often involve the gauze, it constantly switches from opaque to transparent, revealing something to shock us. It’s also used to show the location of a scene by projecting gobo’s onto it (e.g. outside of house). It also creates another room that can be easily accessed by backstage crew during the play, the sudden change of this room can scare us, like when the nursery is ruined, as in the play the room is almost inaccessible, so it suggests supernatural activity. It’s these hidden features of the set that help make the play so scary. The theatre has hidden wings and steps at the front of the stage to make it seem like the woman in black can appear at will. Overall it is a very scary play.