We performed play called Blue Remembered Hills. We also went to watch a play called The Woman in Black. The Woman in Black was based on the book by Susan Hill, directed by Robin Herford and adapted for stage by Stephen Mallatratt. It was set somewhere between 1900 and 1929, although Arthur Kipps’ first encounter with the woman in black would have been about fifty years previous to this.
At first, our protagonist Arthur Kipps, a solicitor, is in London but he quickly gets sent up to a small market town, on the East Coast with work. Blue Remembered Hills is a play about a group of seven children, and concentrates on their relationships and attempts to gain power within the group. One difference between the two plays that we studied is the location of the plays; Blue Remembered Hills was set in the West Country. Another Difference is that they were set at different times within the past: Blue remembered Hills was set a few years after The Woman in Black, during the Second World War in 1943.
A theme which is common to both plays is naivety. In The Woman in Black, Arthur Kipp’s naivety leads to him not believing the villagers stories and therefore continuing to go to Eel Marsh House where he meets the ghost of the woman in black. In Blue Remembered Hills, the children are obviously naï¿½ve owing to their age and inexperience of life. Although they mimic their parents and try to seem grown up, this faï¿½ade in fact reveals their innocence. They are gullible (Peter believes Willie’s story about dirty apples in the first scene) and foolish, as they fail to see that Donald is burning to death. Both plays show this innocence being corrupted by their devastating endings.
Another shared theme is that the characters try their best to leave the traumatic experiences they suffer in the past. In The Woman in Black, Arthur Kipps makes a desperate attempt to at last tell his terrifying tale, in hope that this will allow him to lay the past to rest. For our production of Blue Remembered Hills, we created an epilogue, which showed the children continuing with their lives, with no melancholy or reminiscence for the death of Donald. We walked on to the song ‘True Colours’ and then frozen in a tableau that showed the children were happy and had returned to their normal lives (for example I, playing Willie, pretended to be an aeroplane). They have forgotten about him and their terrible deeds that led to the fire that resulted in his death.
In both plays the characters engage in role-reversal. In our production this was through the children’ dramatic play in the barn, where Angela, Audrey and Donald played ‘mummies and daddies’. In The Woman in Black this is shown through the ghost of the woman in black ‘childishly’ taking her anger and hurt at her sons death out on others, by killing the children of those who have encounters with her.
In The Woman in Black, the production cleverly builds up suspense creating a very frequent, tense atmosphere; as this was fitting for the genre. Although this is also true for our production of Blue Remembered Hills, in our physical theatre scenes and some uses of music, it is far less evident. The characters in The Woman in Black are almost all adults, whereas in Blue Remembered Hills they are children, although through play-acting, they try to mimic and copy the adults in their lives. A major difference between the two plays was that The Woman in Black was set inside a theatre to – ‘a play within a play’ – (although other locations like London and the East Coast were referred to) and had two time zones. Blue Remembered Hills was chronological with just one time zone.
Both plays use dim lighting to create a tense atmosphere; this is true for Mrs Drablow’s funeral in ‘the Woman in Black’ and the scene where the children kill the squirrel in Blue Remembered Hills. In this scene red strobe lighting was employed. In both plays there were scenes expressing juxtaposition between a light-hearted setting and disturbing deeds, which showed the brutality of the characters.
For example, in Blue Remembered Hills, the children kill the squirrel in broad daylight, and in The Woman in Black, the ghost of the woman in black kills Arthur Kipps’ son and injures his wife whilst the happy and jovial funfair music blared in the background. The greatest use of juxtaposition in our performance is towards the end, when Donald screams for help, beating on the door of the barn, desperate to escape from the fire and knowing death is imminent, the other children are laughing at his screams and joking about the ‘itie’, unaware of the extent of the fire. To express this we divided the stage to simultaneously express this.
In The Woman in Black, minimal props were used. For example, a wicker basket was used to represent a horse and trap, a bed, a seat on a train and an office desk. In our production, which was more naturalistic, we did not employ multiple uses for our props and tried to make our stage look like a wood; the stage was covered in twigs and leaves and there was a hay bale on stage right, to represent the interior of the barn. Blue Remembered Hills is a realistic play; all the events in our play could have actually taken place. The Woman in Black’, however, is obviously idealistic as it is written about the supernatural: the ghost and hauntings of the woman in black. Therefore the events within The Woman in Black are unrealistic.
Throughout our performance of Blue Remembered Hills, there is a continuous theme running through the play. Underneath the innocence and naivety of the children’s fun and games, is a sinister undertone, which is mainly exposed at the end of the play, with the death of Donald. The Woman in Black definitely has a very sinister tone as the aim of the play is to scare and frighten, and various deaths occur within the plot.
Nevertheless , although both plays do have a sinister tone, The Woman in Black is by far the more haunting of the two; as the style is a traditional ghost story, the aim of the production is to frighten its audience. Although Blue Remembered Hills does have the sinister undertone of child’s play, it is far less obviously chilling than The Woman in Black, and is only really expressed at the end of the production. Our production was overall more poignant than it was haunting, as the death of Donald was caused by his friends, who did not mean their actions to be malicious.