Woman in Black

Written by Stephen Mallatratt, based on the novel by Susan Hill

I have now designed two productions of this piece, the first of which was directed by Charles Towers and performed originally at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, MA, and then at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany NY. The second production was directed by Neil Pankhurst at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Laconia, NH.

 

The Woman in Black is one of my favorite theatrical experiences for several reasons. First, it is a play that strips much of the technological artifice of contemporary theatre away, challenging the audiences imagination to ‘see’ the environments and events. Second, it is a play in which Sound is truly a character, interacting with the actors both as physical characters and as the major element that describes the places to which the characters travel.


The play presents Kipps, a London Solicitor, in 1950, working with an actor on an empty stage rehearsing the telling of his story. The story is of his experience of a haunting, in 1920, by a woman whose child was first taken from her and then killed, in the 1860's, in a horrific accident, whose ghost, the third (and title) character of the play, kills the first born of anyone who sees her.


Kipps and the Actor play out all the scenes of his story on a supposedly bare stage, using props the Actor finds on stage. A table plays a desk in one scene, and a horse and cart in others, for example. Chairs are lined up and become the trains that take him from London to the town of Crythin Gifford, where the old woman who had charge of the child, lived in an old house off in the swamps.


The following are a few examples of cues I created for the show:

 

London 1920

 

Train Sequence

 

Marketplace to Lull

 

Horse & Trap Ghostly