The Woman In Black Review
On the 7th of February 2012 we saw The Woman in Black in the Fortune Theatre, London. The play is set in the Victorian or Edwardian era, but no dates are given about when the events within it take place. The play is a play within a play, with the character of Arthur Kipps retelling a story from his past to an Actor who he hopes will play him on stage for his family and friends. Kipps is a solicitor who was sent to a remote house in the market town of Crythin Gifford to attend to the affairs of a dead client. The majority of the action of the story takes place at Eel Marsh House, which is cut off from civilisation when the tide comes in. While at the house however, sorting through the affairs of the client, Alice Drablow, Kipps encounters a series of supernatural occurrences centred upon the eponymous Woman in Black. The central themes of the play are familiar to Gothic horror fiction such as Collins’ Woman in White or Bronte’s Jane Eyre; the character of Kipps is a father, and the character of the Woman in Black is a mother, and so fear of children or infanticide, as well as the fear of death are very prevalent in the story. Not only this, but social morality is also a theme in the same way as it is in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or Priestley’s An Inspector Calls. The ghost in The Woman in Black is haunting the characters because she has a message for society about the mistreatment of women. Another central theme is the idea of fear and fantasy, in that Kipps wants people to believe his story which, bearing in mind he was the only one who experienced the haunting at Eel Marsh House, nobody seems to. He is therefore planning to put on the performance with the Actor to tell his story, which creates a sense of dramatic irony: at the end of the play the Woman in Black is proved to be haunting Kipps still, and has been playing her own part throughout the story. There are only three actors in the play, one of whom appears rarely. The two main actors, who play Kipps and the Actor, use physicality to show when they are playing different roles, changing the way they walk, stand and sit, for example the actor playing Kipps would, when playing Keckwick, slouch when sitting. Both actors also change the way they speak depending on the character they are playing, for example when the actor playing Kipps plays Keckwick he speaks in a low tone with a husky voice, and uses a broad country accent. This gives the audience the impression that Keckwick is a less classy and more reserved character, which in the context of the scenes in which he appears creates tension; the character of Kipps, being played by the Actor, is curious – as is the audience at that point in the narrative – to learn more about what is going on. Keckwick however, being so quiet and blunt, doesn’t give much away. Remembering that there are only two actors on stage for the majority of the play, that the actor playing Kipps takes on all the roles of the side characters in the play, while the Actor – who takes on the role of Kipps – only takes on one, creating an interesting effect; the actor playing Kipps creates harsh characterisations for the individual roles. At the beginning of the play, for example, the character of Tomes is identified by a repeated sniffing sound and stiff-backed posture. This kind of caricaturing makes it easy for the audience to identify the different roles, while also creating tension because the audience is likely to wonder which character will appear next, and how the actor playing Kipps will keep them distinct from the rest. Physicality is also used in reference to mime, with the actors creating another character purely through their movements and speech. Spider, Bentley’s dog, accompanies Kipps during his time at Eel Marsh House, but there is no dog on stage. Instead, the actor playing Kipps and the actor playing The Actor mime the dog by stroking the air where the dog would be, calling the dog to them by slapping...
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