The Woman in black - The Fortune theatre

Topics: Women'S Rights

This is a ghost play by Stephen Mallatratt. The play sees the elderly Arthur Kipps, played by Pip Donaghy, attempt to exorcise the ghosts of his past by having a young actor, Colin Hurley, portray his experiences on the stage of a currently empty theatre. The set and lighting that was used during the play was very basic, this was done purposely because the lay is set in an empty theatre, which is still tidying up after a past production. The main items used during the play were visible from the outset.

There was a large wicker basket, a stool, two wooden chairs and a clothes wrack.

Seeing as these items had to be used to portray most items and settings, the lighting would have to be used cleverly, and it was. It enhanced the simple set and added to the illusion of place and created an atmosphere. The lighting and sound in the following places was; – London office- A low and dull light with sound =s of horse and carriages trotting past outside.

A ticking clock was cleverly used to create an office feeling. Tomes had his room down stage right in this scene. Kipps Young Kipps Tomes’ room

Train-Different chairs were used to give us an idea of the three trains comfort. A big comfortable chair and warm lighting was used in London to show optimism, where the wicker basket and cold lighting were used on the final train to create an ominous feeling, this train was ‘ancient and comfortless’.

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A clever piece of lighting was also used in this scene. It was a revolving gobo to create the look of the train going through a tunnel. Tannoy announcements between trains to create atmosphere. Hotel- Busy bar sound effect, which went quiet with the mentioning of Alice Drablows name.

Church- A laundry basket was the alter and it was positioned upstage centre. Footsteps of coffin bearers are heard as well as a vicar’s voice as he gives the funeral sermon. A gobo of a cross is projected upstage centre where it is thrown onto gauze. In the Churchyard a leaf gobo is projected onto the floor to represent the outdoors, sounds of crows are heard which is unpleasant and gives an anonymous feeling, vicars voice is still heard as coffin goes into ground, vicars last words, ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust. ‘

Outside eel marsh house- A gobo of the house has been projected onto the first gauze. The gobo represents an unwelcoming, doted mansion (this gobo is shown every time a scene is set outside eel marsh house) he is quoted as saying ‘A tall gaunt house. ‘ Inside eel marsh house- A musty yellow lighting, the sound effects are the door slamming every time Kipps enters, whilst Kipps is looking through the house a grandfather clock is heard ticking, this creates suspension. One of the best scenes for visual acting was scene 7. this was the horse and trap scene.

It was good because even though all the actors had to work with was an old wicker basket, they managed to create the image of two people riding in a carriage. They did this by bobbing up and down and swaying from side to side. They also shouted things like ‘giddy up’ and made a whipping action towards the horse. Everything they did was supported by sound effects. The lighting in all scenes was good as it created the places and made us feel as if we were actually there. These were; the gobo of Eel Marsh House, a tall dark and eerie building that created a feeling of discomfort.

And a cross (crucifix) to represent the inside of the church, along with a leaf to represent the outside. The set behind the two gauzes was brilliantly concealed and surprised us when it came into the play. One section behind the play was used to represent two settings. The cemetery and the child’s bedroom. Covering the bedroom furniture with old dustsheets that you would have found in a theatre during a production, created the cemetery. The period that child died was late 19th century and the furniture represented this. It was mahogany and very expensive.

There was padding on the rocking chair, which was red to symbolise blood. The toys and clothes are neatly stored and folded for the little boy, this shows that even though he was dead, Jennet and Alice still cared for it and one of the dolls was a golliwog, which also shows period as they would probably be banned if brought put now. The Music box played Swanlake. There was an even bigger shock in act two when we saw it in disarray after Jennet had vented her anger at not being able to kill Spider, Kipps’ canine companion in the marshes.

This again told us of Jennets deranged State of mind. Second gauze reveals arched stairway, which he walks up revealing his silhouette. This was also effective as, again, it was a surprise to see it appear. These were made to appear by the use of the lighting from above shining through the gauze. The use of the second gauze impressed me even more than the first one as when used you could not see the nursery in front of it. Both actors did brilliantly throughout the performance, here is a brief itinerary and description of the parts they played; –

Acting as old Kipps – Pip Donaghy- He walks on very shyly with nose in script, not very confident in his own acting ability (and rightly so! ). He speaks quietly with no emotion (monotonously). We realize how boring and rubbish old Kipps is at acting when he comes back on, this time with a pair of glasses, and speaks with real confidence and moves with prowess. Old Kipps looks the actor in the eye, ‘it must be told’ he says, to show his age the actor leads him upstairs hand in hand. He snorts instead of sniffs, and walks a bit kift, this is because Tomes is a comic character.

Arthur ‘old’ Kipps now becomes the actor ‘young Kipps’ boss. He’s now well spoken and clips the end of his words, he now becomes joyous, and laughs as this character, making him seem friendly and approachable. He sits casually and blows his nose, a feat not accomplished with any other characters, he also taps his foot, another sign of happiness. In the first part of the play and he is still reading from the script, however. as mentioned earlier he now where’s glasses, and with this he learns his lines and can act. He now speaks in a well-spoken Yorkshire accent.

Holding his head high (confidence) he makes eye contact with young Kipps because he is friendly and bobs up and down. As the barman he is not well spoken, and when young Kipps mentions Alice Drablow he acts shocked and moves away and acting shocked again, starts to stutter and talk slowly. Back as old Kipps and he is now going through various emotions as he watches the play progress from the wings of the stage, for instance when the actor says that he doesn’t believe in ghosts he holds his head in despair of his own naivety.

He acted Jerome by dropping slightly at his knees to show that he is older than Daily but not quite as old as Tomes. The woman in black killed Jerome’s child and when the actor asks who the woman with the wasted face is, Jerome won’t look. The actor then asks Jerome if he could find him someone to help with the paperwork at Alice Drablows house, Jerome says ‘you will find no-one suitable’ shudders and walks away. As Keckwick he is non-communicative, he never looks at the actor and grunts occasionally but when the actor (young Kipps) mentions that he is going to the Drablow house he goes ‘uhhh!

‘ In a surprised manor, he also holds the reigns differently to when he played Daily. When the actor is explaining of the death of his wife and kids he hugs himself and looks very upset. DOG They acted the dog by ;- 1- looking down at the same time to show the dog. 2- He (the actor) looked down and shouted ‘here Spider’ and 3- He tilts his head away from the dog’s wet tongue. Acting as The Actor – Colin Hurley – When we first hear Colin Hurley he has a big loud voice, which he amplifies brilliantly from the back of the theatre, when playing the part of the actor, he is also very confident in doing this.

When narrating about his family telling ghost stories he spoke as an excited young child, the line he spoke was, ‘we’re telling ghost stories’. When he went back to being Kipps he spoke quietly and with fear, because he was remembering the woman in black, he also sounded angry and resentful of the fact that people were treating ghost stories as light entertainment, he spoke with real bitterness. When he walks onto the train he walks sideways and dodges air to make it look as if it is a crowded railway station with lots of people.

On seeing the woman in black at the graveyard he acts cautiously and scared. When he walks from eel marsh house he panics and collapses in horror of the woman in black and when he realizes that the horse and trap sounds are ghosts he looks terrified with his eyes wide open, eyebrows drawn and tensed muscles. On rescuing Spider he lay flat on the floor down stage right and lent over the edge as if the pit was the marsh. He tenses his arms to show that he is struggling to tug Spider out of the deep pull of the marsh, he eventually pulls spider up and collapses on the stage.

When hearing music from the jewellery box, he pauses and focuses on the door to create tension. Acting to show his toddler son Joseph, he puts hand down towards the floor and leans slightly to show he’s holding Joseph’s hand, he took small slow childlike steps. He mimed lifting Joseph by bending down low, putting his hands child width apart and smiled as he put his happy child onto the pony and trap. Later in the same scene he describes his child’s death as, ‘crumpled on the grass… dead! ‘ He pauses to show us how difficult he finds it to speak of this tragic event.

He then quietly sniffs as though trying not to cry. I really enjoyed watching ‘The Woman in Black’ and would recommend it to anyone. The quality of acting was superb and with limited resources in the way of props, they portrayed the obstacles brilliantly, especially the horse and trap (see earlier). The Director Robin Herford, who has directed this play for fourteen years and travelled to Tokyo to direct the Japanese adaptation, wanted the audience to experience the fear of this ghost story through their imaginations and not through the use of special effects, which can be seen far too easily on T. V today.

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The Woman in black - The Fortune theatre. (2017, Jul 04). Retrieved from

The Woman in black - The Fortune theatre
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