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Woman In Black A Nerve Shattering Experience English Literature Essay

This essay will consider The Woman in Black as a truly “nerve-shattering experience”. The Woman in Black story was first written in 1983 by Susan Hill. It was then adapted by Stephen Mallatratt into a play. Subsequently after Mallatratt adapted the book. Stephen Joseph first performed The women in black play, in the theatre in Scarborough, on the 11th December, 1987.

Susan Hill wanted to write a gothic ghost story, as she was very influenced by other writers. This was like Mr Horace Walpole; he wrote this in 1764 he wrote the first gothic ghost story. The gothic story that he wrote was, The Castle of Otranto. The gothic genre included an huge amount of isolated places, supernatural creatures, stories of the revenge and the Damsels in distress.

In order to understand and get a better feel for the story, our class was given the opportunity to watch the play being performed live at a West End theatre. The main actors included Timothy Watson, and Arthur Kipps.

The aim of Susan Hill was to have “Ghost stories have to have a point beyond frightening.” (Susan Hill) so that the audience would find the story more extraordinary than any other ever written. “The fear is not on a visual or visceral level, but an imaginative one.” (Stephen Mallatratt) Stephen Mallatratt wanted to make this play a very imaginative poem. As you read on you will be able to come across the ways he makes, the play imaginative for his audience.

In this essay I will explore the gothic part of The Woman in Black story. I will discuss ‘What makes ‘The Women in Black’ a truly nerve-shattering experience?’

The theatrical version of The Women in Black used special effects such as lighting, setting, props and sound effects, which helped create a dramatic atmosphere. They were inserted into the play at certain points where they were needed, to make the audience experience the feel, “truly nerve shredding experience.”

The play starts with the actors acting as if they are rehearsing. This makes the audience curious about the play and it makes you question, “What is going on?”.

As the play goes on you find out that Kipps is trying to act out, “His story” he has to make the audience understand his story.

The play is telling the audience what actually happened to him and how frightened he was. He wants the audience to feel what he felt when he was in the ‘Eel March House’. He is desperate to tell his story because he thinks that the children in the village are dying because of the women in black.

Another reason why he wants to tell his story is because he wants to inform everyone with the intention of what happened to him when he was in the ‘Eel March House’.

To show a gothic play on stage you need to have good effects. For instance, Mallatratt uses the effect of the lights in different ways in the play to make more of an atmosphere. Mallatratt also uses lights to reveal the first appearance of the Women in Black; he uses light and darkness as a means to create tension for the audience.

Another way that lights are used to cause a good effect is because it makes the audience feel tension and terrified. This is shown when he has a torch and he moves it around making the theatre is dark, leaving the audience feeling alone. “Takes up the torch and moves outside” fade black-out. This was a really frightening and creepy moment during the production, because you could not see or hear anything in the theatre so it felt as if you were the only one in Eel March House.

The moon light scene was really effective, particularly when the moonlight was revealed. The lights were inserted in this particular scene through a window in the dark house, with only the round shape showing. Mallatratt also used the lights to depict the inside of a church. The lights are shown through a stain glass window as a ray of colours. This is to show the difference of scenes and to make the audience realise they are in the church. This is what made the play more believable, dramatic, and spectacular. This made the audience feel as if the actors were actually at the Church, even though everyone was still in the same place.

I thought it was amazing and genius how Mallatratt created all the different types of scenes by changing something as simple as the lights in different scenes. Especially as this worked in accordance with actual historical technology, as they did not have the technology we have today and Mallatratt has used this as a technique to increase the authenticity of the play. I also think this an effective way of showing tension and the changing of each scene.

Mallatratt in addition uses sound effects in different ways to create suspense and get his message across to the audience. For example, when they need to make the pony and trap they use the sound from the background of a horse and the “tap tap” for the carriage and the horse, rather than needing a whole horse and carriage.

Then the way the Woman in Black enters, in fact she appears from nowhere, this technique was really effective in making this part one of the most frightening scenes of the play. The added scream made everybody in the audience jump and definitely created a heart stopping, shattering experience. Mallatratt does this so the audience get a fright and have an unforgettable, unique experience. For example, in the scene when he makes the women in black come out of the back in the most odd ways in most scenes. That’s the thing that frightens you. “The women in black stands, looking directly down at him, he stares at her, then he screams. Then from the back of the theatre comes the sound of a pony and trap. Black-out”. This is shown by Mallatratt to make the audience feel the vibe of the atmosphere, and to feel what the actor is experiencing. It makes you get into the play more as you feel the urge to carry on watching. However the audience is growing in suspense as to what might happen next.

In many other scenes the effects of the lights and the sounds are shown much together and more often. This is terrifying because at first Mr Kipps is normal and sitting down relaxing and suddenly the Women in Black appears out of nowhere. He uses the sound such as “thump-thump-thump” and a pause sound to give time for the tension to build up and frighten everyone. For even more drama.

The main reason why Mallatratt uses sound effects is to make the experience in watching the play more tense and terrifying. Sound effects are a good tool used in a play to make each scene come to life and make it more enjoyable experience for the audience consequently making the play more effective. The sound makes the audience think more imaginatively and to make it a bit more real. As well as giving a high-quality performance. The first time Mallatratt uses the sound effect is when he is walking in the streets of London. “They step into the sunshine. Now the market noises intensify. Kipps looks about him”. “It is a busy day for us, market day they come from all over”-Jerome. “The market noises lull”. The use of the sound for the streets of London is to try and to get the audience to think and imagine as if Mr Kipps is in the streets and you as the audience are with him.

Mallatratt uses the effect of a clock inside the Eel March house late at night. He would hear the clock going ‘tick-tock tick-tock' waiting for every second to go past and for the morning to arrive. The sound that was most used was when Mr Kipps walks out the Eel March house and he hears the ‘woman and a child screaming and drowning’. This is a sound that is repeated a number of times. The reason why the sound is repeated is so that you can imagine what is happening in Mr Kipps head.

Mallatratt only uses three actors in his play nevertheless the play is still really exciting to watch. Mallatratt has achieved this by changing the actors into different characters in the play. Mallatratt only has two characters performing as he wants the audience to realise the different roles. He wants the audience to imagine and work with their minds, to make it more interesting. This is also how he makes it intense for you.

A different way Mallatratt makes you use your imagination is by making you experience that an animal exists when it is unreal. For example when Kipps borrows the dog. He strokes it now and then in front of the audience to show as if there is actually a dog around and then whistles to it and tells it to sit. When Kipps first sees the dog Spider, Sam Daily calls Spider “he whistles, then bends and pats the dog.” This is to get you to imagine and think for yourself to get you more involved as an individual in the play.

Mallatratt uses props within scenes but has a minority number of props. He places these props on the stage when he needs them. He only has a few props because he wants you as an audience to imagine the rest thus making you feel part of the play even more. Some props needed for the play, for example is the pony and trap on to the stage but this is unpractical and expensive to hire so Mallatratt over comes this problem by letting the audience imagine the pony and trap by the sounds that they hear. “But you ride it, don’t you? And with a whip! And with a recorded sound of a pony’s hooves, promise, nothing in the world could say it clearer.” This explains that even with one prop you can make out anything you want with your imagination in the play. Also by using different effects of sounds and lighting the play writer gets you more interested in the play and makes it a more enjoyable experience for the audience. This is also how Mallatratt makes each scene come to life.

This play needed a theatre type of setting in order for Kipps to tell his story.

This is the right place for the actual play to begin because the play starts off in a setting which is in the theatre with the seats and rows that we are actually sitting in. It is not really hard to imagine because you are already in the first scene of the play.

The theatre is small and that is what is needed to make the effects of the lighting and the sounds echo. The surroundings have the ability to have total darkness and no noise. This is also why the play was chosen to be in the small theatre.

Mallatratt would come across with some sort of problems with the big Eel March House but this was all sorted out with the lighting making the house stand out from the back. This was the way Mallatratt had to adapt, to change the play around. Mallatratt used the theatre well because he made the audience feel that they were in the play by making the Women in Black walk through the audience. Furthermore most of the scenes were illustrated with lights and sounds making the audience feel they were in different places in the scenes for example in a church and the Eel March house.

The main reason why the play was created and performed in front of an audience is so that the audience could imagine Kipps feelings. Also listen to Kipps story.

The conversation between the actor and Kipps can not be spoken out load because every time someone would say ‘The Woman in Black’ a child near by would die with an illness or with something falling on top of them.

The way that the audience were led to believe that something is going to happen is through the use of the dramatic sound. This is when you are being warned that something is going to happen. Also that is then the Women in Black come out into the theatre.

I think that the Woman in Black herself was not a real character. This is because she comes across looking like a real ghost. I also think that her character is portrayed as a really awful person trying to harm anybody that comes into the village and killing innocent children.

Overall my opinion on what makes ‘The Women in Black’ a truly nerve shattering experience?’ is the way all the props, setting, sound and lighting are used to a dramatic effect in each scene to make it feel more lifelike. I thought that the way that the play was preformed was a stroke of brilliance. I would definitely go to watch the play again. The reason I think I enjoyed the play was mostly because it was truly scary and because I had to use my imagination throughout it kept me in suspense. Another reason why I liked the play was because the play was thrilling to watch with the unexpected events and surprises, for example when the woman in black comes out from the audience, creating a shockwave in the audience. In my opinion the play was a truly nerve shattering experience.


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