It’s October, the time of pumpkins, ghosts, witches and spells, the time for magic and festive parties, horror stories told at the dead of night, or creepy films watched with friends or family, ones that chill you to the bone, leaving you with nightmares.
And so, this month I’ve taken it upon myself to watch and review as many frightening things as I can, starting with The Woman in Black. I’ve read the novel and seen the film, that were especially frightening, and seen as I’d heard nothing but good reviews for the play, I decided to take a trip. Sitting in the front row of a theatre production is usually something fought for, but in this case I wasn’t so excited to be so close to a ghostly woman, who haunted and murdered young children.
The theatre was small and intimate, lit up only by dim overhead lamps, while seats were arranged so that the audience were as close as possible to the stage, and to each other. In the dark, the fog crawled up the walls and covered our feet and legs; it made me feel as though I was standing in a graveyard. A rickety old stage, haunting music and the screams that the audience heard, or made themselves, was enough to set the scene, not much else was needed. The production was quite reliant on the audience’s reaction to the woman and to their own imagination, the sound effects and visual props and actions were enough to install terror and panic in the many faces watching the action unfold.
On stage watching the story unfold was a different experience, reading the book allows you to imagine the tale, to see the woman, to see her in the darkness and hiding in the black corners of your room. Watching the film, opens your eyes to another interpretation, except this vision plays on your mind more – the woman is right in front of you, on the screen, the music is chilling, creeping into your ears, she appears in the shadows and screams loudly, her eyes stare into yours and follow you wherever you look.
Then, seeing it on stage, just makes that process all the more frightening, you’re in the same room as the woman, the woman who is mentally deranged, who feeds on the souls of young children, as revenge for her child being taken away. The deeply terrifying tale is told by an old man, Arthur, who was a lawyer and needed to travel to sort out the woman in black’s, Jennet’s affairs after her passing. What he didn’t expect to find was Jennet, who still haunted her old house, the neighbouring town and all who lived and breathed. He is haunted by the ghostly woman and discovers Jennet’s dark past – her son being taken away by her sister, Alice, her sister’s death and son’s death and then her own death.
While he struggles with what happened to him, he hopes to let it go once he hands over his manuscript of the events to a theatre production. But the woman, it seems has not left him, and haunts him while they act out the play. In the end, it is revealed that the woman killed Arthur’s son and wife, leaving him alone and broken, with nothing but their memory and her frightening face. Her face is probably the last thing he sees, as the play cuts and ends, darkness filling the room, before the lights come back on, and the play is over.
And the woman in black disappears into the shadows, never to be seen again, or so we hope.