The Woman in Black

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The Woman in Black

The venue for the woman in black was the fortune theatre in London only 100 yrds from Covent Garden. The Theatre from outside appears small old and slightly decrepit, inside there was no attempt to prepare one for or indeed set the atmosphere for the nature of the play in question. The Fortune is notoriously small and the intimacy between actor and audience was brought out well by the fact that the furthest seats can only have been 15m away. The theatre is of Victorian style with ornate decorations and red carpets and seating, this instantly transport one to the era in which the play is set in the 19th century. The stage is open for the audience to see before the play starts and is set out as the stage in a small theatre, a basket for props, two chairs, a rack of costumes and buckets catching water from a leaky roof. The most important part of the set though was the gauze at the back of the stage separating a separate scene behind and revealing it hen needed using lighting. This combination of props an structure conveys the location strongly to the audience without being so defined that it is not possible to change the scene. The time we waited before the play actually started was around 15 and contrary to usual procedure for plays there was no kind of background music which gave a slightly eerie edge to the wait.

The play started in the theatre depicted on the stage and almost immediately the humour of the actor trying to instil a little panache in Mr Kipps’s reading of his memoirs. Any tension or apprehension the audience heard with regards to the plays reputation as a horror dissipated this I feel lulled the audience into a false sense of security which made shocks later in the play a lot more effective. The most important element of the play I feel was the lighting without a doubt, spotlights were used to great effect and to draw attention to subtler facial expressions something which cannot be used so much in theatre acting. Also it allowed the gauze to be rendered opaque or see through at the click of a switch which enabled the stage hands to change set whilst the play continued allowing for swift changes as if actually by magic. Also the eerie scenes played out behind the gauze were added to by the slightly murky look that was achieved, another effective use of lighting was the torch when Kipps is searching the house for the ghost and when he sits down shines the beam above and behind him to reveal the woman in black standing behind him, the torch is clearly specially narrow beamed so that only a small area is visible and the audience feels the tension as they realise that the woman in black is lurking in the shadows and although the urge to warn him. The one problem was that in the dark theatre my eyes had adjusted to the dark and I could see the woman before the torch beam revealed her this could have perhaps been countered by shining the light in the eyes of the audience so as to destroy their night vision and really flaunt the moment for all its shock potential. Again in the church scene the lighting creating a cross in bright light on the gauze not only added to the impression of the dinginess and sobriety of the rest of the scene also the sheer size which was possible using lighting instead of a prop meant that the huge cross gave the impression of the insignificance of man in the face of the supernatural. One use of lighting that I felt really was crucial to the scene was when Kipps is ascending the staircase towards the nursery with the rocking chair, the entire image is silhouetted which turned an innocent act like ascending a staircase into a ratchet cranking up tension in the audience, as well as Kipps the woman in black is seen on the stairs which allows here black clothes to be silhouetted and only her gaunt white features visible to the audience.

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Equally important I the play as the effect of light was that of sound. The invisible character of the sound man  allowed the use of sound affects which now would seem corny to fit into the nature of a Victorian theatre. The reason the sound worked was mainly due to the fact that it was only ever used in context and were it definitely added to the play. The background sound really drew the audience into the scene from the harsh rattling of the pony and trap to the warm conversation in the bar. It was especially effective for ...

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