The Woman in Black

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   Hello Everyone! Hope you all had an enjoyable St. Patrick’s Day! I know I did! I just got back from a trip to Dublin, Ireland to visit a friend and fellow WS Alumnae Kaylyn O’Brien. Kaylyn took me to see all the sights in Dublin, including the book of  Kells and Trinity College. We also got the chance to take in a show at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre. The show was called, “The Woman in Black.” You may have heard of it recently because British actor Daniel Radcliffe finished a feature film with the same title that follows the same general story-line of the play. The play itself promises to be a haunting and chilling experience for its viewers. I was intrigued, never having seen a “scary” play before in my life, and so Kaylyn and myself decided to check it out.

I might add that I am usually not one for scary movies. I don’t usually take pleasure in watching things that give me goose bumps, or shivers, or make my heart start to race with fear. Nevertheless, “The Woman in Black” was an enjoyable experience for me. It wasn’t too scary, but I will admit to some points in the play where I slinked down in my seat to escape the ‘woman’s’ blood-curdling screech.

If you don’t know much of the story line, it follows an old man who has sought after the help of a young actor in order to learn a way to better communicate his real-life ghost story memoir to the members of his family. The play starts off slightly choppy with the different levels involved (actors pretending to be actors telling a story, and then them actually acting out the story, but slowly and beautifully edges away from the “actors” and envelopes the audience almost completely in the ghost story itself. The two actors playing the old man and the young actor were also marvelous to watch. The young one had a great energy and intensity, but it was the older one that was spectacular to watch. The old man played multiple roles in the telling of his ghost story, and to see him transition into character was amazing. In the beginning, you literally get to see him change his posture, voice, demeanor, and general disposition from one character to another. All the characters he played were vastly different, and he did a great job attributing different, yet believable, characteristics for each one of them.

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            I was also really impressed with the set of the play. They had a very simple set in front of the curtain. A box here, a coat rack there. The box they used to pull props out of, and sometimes to act as a horse buggy (particularly amusing when used for the latter, as the actors would jumps up and down to show buggy movements). There was also a strip of walkway jutting out in the front of the stage that actors used to symbolize walking from one place to another. Behind the curtain, was a set that doubled as a graveyard and as a child’s play room. This production used lighting to dim the front of the stage and light up the second room. I liked how the lighting technique gave the second level of the stage a very creepy feel. Behind that was a third level where there was a set of stairs. At points in the story where the young actor hears a strange noise in the attic, he would climb the stairs (lit only a little so the picture the audience saw was mostly shadow) then come out to a side of the front-most stage where a door was then lit up to symbolize the attic playroom. This use of stage was a really interesting way to create a set without having to have a lot of stage hands moving around props and setting up multiple sets. It also made sense since the story line itself involved a theatre stage and kept coming back to important sets (i.e. The stage, the playroom, and the graveyard). The use of sound was also a really great addition to this play. Instead of adding background characters and using live animals, sound bites were used to imitate sounds of a busy street, a ticking clock in a study, and the clatter of a buggy. Sounds were also important in creating the “scary” parts of the play, with loud piercing screams, a crash of a buggy, etc. The sound, like in most horror films, paired with the stereotypical apprehension of the protagonist going towards the creepy door instead of running away from it, made for some very scary, but not un-enjoyable moments.

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            Another quirky tid-bit about the Gaiety Theatre itself is its wonderful tradition of selling popcorn for audience members to snack on during the performance. The small buttery kernels, usually limited to movie theaters, were a welcome treat to nervously munch on during the show. Even though the story wasn’t what I typically enjoy, the high caliber of the acting, the creativity of the sets, and the novelty of the genre made for an amazing time at the theatre.

~A

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