Woman In Black - Live Theatre Review

Authors Avatar by cutehamstercutegooglemailcom (student)

  On the 29th of November I went to see the woman in black at the fortune theatre in London. The play was adapted from Susan Hill’s original novel, ‘The Woman in Black’, by Stephan Mallart into a semi-naturalistic play within a play.  The book pulled on themes from Victorian ghost stories, making it a horror filled with anticipation, the constant air of suspense with underlying menace and threat is replicated superbly. The director, Robin Herford, uses theatrical techniques to ignite and excite our imagination, forcing us to imagine something far worse than what we are actually seeing. Herford’s main intention is to scare us, something, judging by the constant screams, he does quite well. The play also continuously hints towards its period setting, showing the era through the period costume, like bowler hats, and referring to ‘modern’ technology, like recorded sound.

The theatre itself appeared to be from the Victorian era and is a proscenium arch with a thrust coming out of the CS. The thrust was used by both David Acton and Ben Deery to come out of their various characters and narrate parts of the story, speaking directly to the audience. For the majority of the play a fourth wall was created, but as the thrust came out of the stage it seemed to also come out of the fourth wall. The theatre was also small, making us feel trapped and intensifying the experience because the audience feed off each other’s emotions.

 When we first entered the theatre we noticed how the stage was set with an odd assortment of unclean, well used items (a chair, a wicker basket, a costume rail covered in a dirty sheet, two buckets and an abandoned piece of scenery placed slightly off stage). The props had no obvious connection and appeared to have no purpose, creating the image of a theatre in the dark, as was the intention of both director, Robin Herford, and designer, Michael Holt.  This effect was also created by the dull, dark colours of the props and set. The lack of set also enhanced the idea of an abandoned, unused theatre. A grey gauze obscured the back half of the stage and the floor was painted to look like old wooden floor boards, giving us no real indication of where the play was set and added to the bleak and empty feel. The floor had been painted so that it was darker near the edges and lighter near the middle, focusing our attention and intensifying the play.

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  The play started with Mr (R-)Kipps (R-Kipps refers to real Kipps, Mr kipps to actor in role) walking onstage. There was no indication from lighting or sound that the play had begun as neither changed, even the house lights didn’t go down. This, the lack of set and Mr (R-)Kipps repeating and tripping over his lines gave an immediate amateurish feel to the production.  However Mr (R-)Kipps was then interrupted by the actor, who was standing behind the people sitting in the stalls, making them jump. He referred to all the empty seats as he made his way up ...

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