Photo: Alex Takil [Unsplash]

I went to see ‘The Woman in Black’… on my own

Going to the theatre alone has always been on my bucket list; I’m not really sure why, but there’s something about immersing myself fully in the production and indulging in something I love that has always made me want to do it.

However, choosing The Woman in Black as my solo theatre adventure was a downright mistake…I have never wanted to have the comfort of someone I know sitting next to me so much. It was terrifying!

When I read Susan Hill’s book, I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t convinced. I found it spooky, but not necessarily scary. It was quite difficult to immerse myself in the horror genre through words on a page…it just wasn’t terrifying enough. However, after watching it on stage, I have come to the realisation that this story is much better suited to being a performance. The clever staging, convincing actors and atmospheric effects were all things that I never got from reading the book. It was a much more horrifying experience for sure.

The Woman in Black follows the story of Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor who is sent to a village to settle the estate of a recently deceased client, Mrs. Drablow. As he begins his work at her isolated and eerie mansion, Eel Marsh House, strange and haunting things begin to occur.

Unlike the book, which is a simple retelling of Kipps’ story, the performance is presented as a play within a play, with an older Kipps telling his haunting experiences to a young actor, who then re-enacts them on stage. This slight adaptation was an excellent choice for the performance.

The theatre itself perfectly encapsulated the horror genre. The minimalist staging, with the simple use of furniture and props, effectively created the chilling atmosphere I was hoping for. The dark and shadowed lighting created a sense of foreboding and mystery, whilst sudden flashes of light brought out the utter terror of the show.

To tell you the truth, I actually wasn’t that convinced by Act One. The set-up of the story was simple and the introduction of the two actors was very straightforward.

Once the curtain fell for the interval, I sat there wondering, where are all the jump scares? This isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Oh boy, was I wrong.

Act Two was spine-chilling; I have never felt so terrified in my life. It’s probably worth mentioning that 90% of the audience were school children (this is a common book to read in UK secondary schools), so there were some very over-dramatic reactions to the jump scares that just increased the level of tension and suspense in the theatre. The sudden loud noises and unexpected appearances of the Woman in Black were terrifying – I felt sorry for the kids in the front row – I could never be that brave. I felt much safer behind the protection of the balcony.

The Woman in Black has all your classic horror elements – foreboding mist, rocking chairs that rock on their own, graveyards, candles that go out at the wrong time – it was so predictable yet so unexpected at the same time. It was very amusing when a music box started playing on its own and the entire audience groaned in anticipation – we all knew what was coming, yet we were all terrified at the same time.

When the play ended, I felt like a fool. I was so convinced at the end of Act One that this play was not going to scare me…I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I think I actually left the theatre shaking and had to sit in my car for a while before I could gather my thoughts…it was truly that scary!

Yes, I have ticked this off my bucket list, but at what expense? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to recover or have a good night’s sleep ever again.

Would I recommend it? Yes! But only to those who are brave enough to endure it…

Comments (3)

  • This sounds utterly chilling! Not sure if I could brave this on my own! I commend you 🙂

  • I’m never sure whether to say I’m pleased you were frightened..or to commiserate …but the play works, no doubt, even on tough teenage boys who swagger in..and creep out, ashen faced. It still makes me jump, if I see it after a long interval.
    And you’re spot on about going to the theatre alone..unless it’s a musical. I always prefer it. Thank you for braving it.

    • Hannah Colechin

      Thank you so much for your message, I really appreciate it. That mix of fear and thrill from both the book and the play is exactly what makes it so effective – such a great experience.

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