Play: Women in Black.
Style: Gran Guignal.
Our drama assessment was to watch the play “Woman in Black” at the Fortune Theatre in London. The original 1950’s play starred Orlando Wells and Michael Mears as the two main and only characters and directed by Robin Hereford.
As the curtain raised and the performance began a minimalist set was revealed; stool, chair, basket and a coat-rack. Initially, the minimalist set predicted that the play would be slow-moving, however the lack stage furniture actually focused the audience even more on the storyline, as there were few distractions. This also allowed the actors to effectively include Drama Mediums such as multiple prop. The actors were so convincing in their use of the props, that one truly believed a wooden box was a horse and cart. The colours of the set were dull and gloomy; blacks, greys and browns – this delivered the effect of shadowing the stage and intensifying the atmosphere. The designer was probably using these colours to connote death, sadness and the melodramatic era of the Victorians, who mainly wore dreary coloured clothes. The mysteriousness behind the story was seeping through the dismal pieces of cloth hanging from the stage at extremities of the performance area – this certainly intensified the atmosphere upon the first appearance of the Woman in Black. As she first paced down the aisle, the dim lighting and atmosphere increased the mystery of a woman in a black cape slowly moving towards stage. Her hidden face made us feel unsafe and unsure . In a way, the small, old, shabby theatre chosen to hold the performance becomes part of the set. In my opinion, a larger modern theatre venue wouldn’t create the same claustrophobic atmosphere.
The costumes although simple, were effective. All characters wore Victorian formal clothes, suits and waistcoats, complimenting the set perfectly, the dark colours blending with the scenery – whereas bright costumes would ruin the atmosphere. I found it quite ingenious how one of the props on stage was actually the wardrobe for all the costumes. The actors literally changed on stage - just by placing a hat on or picking up a briefcase they had changed character. The best costume, in my opinion, was the Woman in Black’s mask. Dressed completely in, her bright white mask juxtaposes with the rest of her costume flawlessly to shock the audience in a way that made most people’s hearts a skip a beat as she turned her head.
The sound used was mainly recorded. Sound was used to set each scene such as the train, or the office with the prominent sound of the ticking clock. I particularly liked the use of the recorded sound of the horse and carriage crash, as when the sound of the hooves was heard a feeling of dread descended. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The sound of the rocking chair is another clever use of recorded. This was effective as it played with my senses…the stage was in darkness.
However, the best use of sound, was, none at all – total silence. The audience sat, in silence; anticipating the next move. The silence was just long enough to instil fear and not so long that the tension was overstretched.
Most of the time the lighting was dimed, but when the Play within the play would come up, the lighting would change to a yellow/orange bright light – this light-hearted interlude broke up underlying sinister plot. The first blackout caused panic as it played with the audience’s senses. The main lighting was a simple spotlight targeting the performing character. I liked the use of the gauze to separate the upstage and downstage: alternate lighting effects, from backlight to front revealing and concealing different parts of the set at any one time.
Characters and Characterisations.
The performance started slowly, accentuated due to the ‘play within a play’ element, multi-rolling actors initially...