The Woman in Black

A young actor is asked to help the older Mr Kipps to tell a “story that must be told”. The story sees young lawyer Arthur Kipps being sent to the funeral of his client Mrs Alice Drablow. After the death of Alice Drablow, a woman with no friends, no family, and no visitors to her lonely, dark home, Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer, travels to the foggy village of Crethyn Griffin to sort out all of Alice Drablow’s papers. On arriving in the small town, Kipps gains an unnerving sense of horror.

He questions people about Alice Drablow and Eel Marsh House, yet comes away with an even greater sense of unease as the people turn away and only hint about a dark figure lurking in the shadows. Haunted for years by his chilling meeting with the woman in black, Kipps employs a young actor to re-tell the grim events surrounding Alice Drablow’s funeral, hoping to exorcise the woman’s evil grip. As the tale progresses, however, reality begins to blur until what once seemed real becomes untrue, and what once seemed a horrific suggestion becomes a tragic story from beyond the grave.

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But at the end, the truth spills out that the old Mr Kipps didn’t plan the ghost to appear. The two men have different reasons for telling the story because maybe the actor wanted to become famous by Mr Kipp’s play or maybe has something to do with the woman in black herself (possibly sighted her once before). Mr Kipps probably wanted to exorcise the woman’s spirit and make her pass over so that his mind can rest without the thoughts and sight of the haunting. The play could be a moral story because it warns of the dangers of going somewhere alone or not believing in ghosts.

However, the story is really that of the woman in black (who actually existed). She was a young lady called Jennet Humphrey, who had a child out of wedlock (which was a social crime in the time that she was alive). So, Jennets sister took in the baby. Jennet was still allowed to talk to her son, but one day, after a day out, her son was killed in a marsh while Jennet was watching, helpless from an upstairs window. So it is relevant that Jennet Humphrey’s story should be used in the woman in black. That has made her a ghost with a point.

The fact that Mr Kipps doesn’t believe in ghosts is important for the audience and the story because he refused to believe in Jennet’s ghost throughout the play so it was quite amusing that she was trying to introduce herself to him the whole time while he was denying that ghosts exist. Until the end of the play, where his son is killed by the woman and when they come out of role, the actor asks who the woman ‘actress’ was, Mr Kipps admitted believing in ghosts as he hired nobody (she was playing herself).

This play frightened by using a mixture of tension, action, time, mystery and surprise. For example, when the young Mr Kipps touched the door when it screamed. The tension was when he was slowly walking up to the door, action was when he decided to investigate where the thumping sound was coming from, time was the time taking to build up tension to the climax or the time taken to do a certain action (sound also aids time by making it appear to slow down or speed up i. e. the thumping noise).

A good example of mystery was when Mr Kipps was investigating what was behind the nursery door(what was behind it and so on), surprise was used nearly all the time in the play when the woman in black appears(when the surprise factor is used, it makes people jump and makes them want to know what will happen next. The fears in the audience and the play were; fears of the unknown (what will happen next i. e. what happened when he touched the handle of the nursery door), fears of the unexpected (when will the woman in black appear again i. e. hen Mr Kipps swept the torch over his shoulder and saw the woman which was totally unexpected), fears of isolation (claustrophobia i. e. at Eel marsh house, where you are isolated/cut off from the outside world for hours a day with fog unexpectedly rolling in, making the impression of isolation, fear of ghosts (the woman herself i. e. her wasted face or just the woman as she stands. Although the set was simple, it was also very surprising. The simplicity of the set worked amazingly and only used about 20 props throughout the whole play.

Then again, the set was surprising because the sets morphed into different places i. e. the office changed into the pony and trap on the marshes or the train. The gauze amazed me too because from one side, our side, it looked like a normal piece of material but when light was shone through it from one side, it was transparent. The bedroom also doubled up into another set (graveyard-bedroom) and behind that was the stair silhouette. In the play, the actor introduced Mr Kipps to the miracle of recorded sound which were used to create tension and fear by slowing down time i. e. hen the rocking chair was thumping, it made every step Mr Kipps took towards the door longer and more painstaking to watch.

And the horse and cart sound struck fear because it was all that you could hear in the dark blackout. Mr Kipps first became an actor when the office scene was set up, which is only a little time before his arrival. However, his style of acting covered a wide range of styles like the melodramatic sniff he did in the office to the rather formal, naturalistic solicitor. Before he started ‘acting’ though, the young actor gave some tips to Mr Kipps after hearing him read out his script about 10 times.

To give it some oomph as he said. Not to say it so dull but to brighten it up with some enthusiasm. To show that the actors were changing into a different character, they both merely turned around and turned back around as a different character and change the way the chosen character moves speaks and even sit. The directors were very subtle about the changing of characters by merely placing in a blackout. It taught me a lot about being a good audience member because it is hard to play 8 or more characters and you have to have respect for the actors so that they have loads of concentration.