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On Monday 21st July 2008 we attended an evening performance of “The Woman in Black” at the Fortune Theatre situated in London. The play is an adaptation of a novel written by Susan Hill and the playwright in which adapted it was Stephen Mallatratt. The play involves only 2 actors; Ben Porter and Sean Baker. Ben Porter plays the part of the actor and stays as this character throughout the piece. Sean Baker plays a character called Mr Kipps who uses the technique called multi-rolling, which means playing all the other parts encountered throughout the play, and also “The Woman in Black” who is not listed in the programme giving extra effect for when she appears.
The plot of the play explores the concept of human fears in the form of a ghost story. Techniques such as anticipation, suspense and the suggestion of the supernatural are used throughout the play. All these techniques need to be applied successfully in order to create the atmosphere intended.
By using the technique of suspense it builds up a state of mental insecurity, uncertainty or excitement within the person. Along side this adding the technique of anticipation gives the audience the impression that something is going to happen, but didn’t know what or when therefore building up the tension in the theatre and taking the audience by surprise applying the concept of human fears through using dramatic devices. The overall tone of the play is very serious due to the fact that it is kept very naturalistic and realistic with the actors acting as normal everyday people making it seem more real and life like to the audience.
I believe that the roles of this play were appropriately cast in the way that there was one old man and one young man giving it more of an appeal to different age groups. The younger of the two men who played the role of the professional actor, Ben Porter, made his character very believable from the start. The volume of his voice was just right so that everyone could hear and understand what he was saying but wasn’t too loud to give the impression he was shouting. The older of the two men who played Mr Kipps, a character who had never acted before and had no experience, was convincing in his role but was speaking to quietly at the start of the play. Even though he was trying to get across the impression he was nervous and had no experience I think his voice was too quiet therefore not completely understanding what he was saying.
The way in which the actors used the stage and space given was really good. They used the entire stage as well as moving among the audience making me feel more involved in the production. As well as the movement being very realistic so was the relationship between the two actors. At the very start they were two people who had just met and that showed in the way they addressed one another and as it went on you could see they were getting to know each other better and that they were becoming closer just by the way that they were interacting with one another. Throughout the play both actors go through a number of different character. To do this effectively they both use different pitches and accents for each different character therefore when playing that character the audience would know which accent belonged to which character. “The Woman in Black” was a silent character was used her body language to bring fear into the room and didn’t show her face until completely necessary.
The space in which the production was staged in was a Proscenium Arch. This means that its primary feature is a large archway at the front of the stage through which the audience views the play. The scenery of the play was very simple and didn’t change much. It consisted of a few props and only lighting and sound were used to show different places and also to create time and space, everything else was left to the audience’s imagination. Examples of props would be a clothes rail and a wicker basket, this was used for a number of different things like a horse and carriage and a bed. The lighting of the set played a important part for change of setting, even different place had a different colour light.
There were minimum lights used, the main colours used were red, yellow and a dull white. Some of the lights used were faded in and out to create an intended atmosphere. Even though the lights were executed well I think that some of the lighting que’s were out of sync with the action happening on the stage even thought they were only slightly out I picked up on it, if they had been out of sync by quite a lot I think that suspense and anticipation would have been lost. As well as lighting playing a big part so did the sound affects. In this production over 2000 sound effects were used examples of ones the created good suspense was the sound of a rocking chair, a girls scream and the wind. There were also ones that I couldn’t pick up on for example birds. Both these aspects contributed very effectively to the whole production.
The play was set in the 1950’s so the costumes used were to fit in with the era. The costumes were simple yet very old fashioned. All the costumes that were used were hung up on a clothes rail and used a prop within the show. When a character changed they would take it straight of the rack and you would know which character was who just by that item. For example an umbrella or a pair of glasses. By doing it this way it kept the play at a reasonable pace building up and keeping the suspense. The costume and makeup of the “woman” was all black with a ghostly white face this gives a gloomy look to the character causing it to have a more mysterious effect. I think overall the costumes and make up suited the production and was appropriate to all characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and my overall impression of it is that it is a very successful play in the way it creates suspense and fear through stage. It gave me a huge adrenaline rush and I would be more than happy to see it again.
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