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English Literature A Level Theatre Visit

Year 12 Literature students had the thrill of watching 'The Woman in Black' in Birmingham at the Alexandra Theatre. Student, Elliana Rhodes, reviewed the performance.

A truly incredible and valuable learning experience was that of being able to watch the invigorating, captivating and thrilling performance of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt at The Alexandra theatre in Birmingham. Upon entering the theatre, an immediate sense of the supernatural settled, controlling and ensnaring the senses. As the lights dimmed, a warm glow of orange filled the stage: a coat rail, two chairs, and a large basket. The entire play was performed using these objects as the main props as well as playing on the imagination of the audience. This was a very creative way of including the audience in the play and fully immersing us in the eerie atmosphere of Eel-Marsh house. Lighting was also one of the astonishing aspects of this production, the exploration of the malleability of light and shadows was wonderful to witness in this performance. When shone from above, the lights gave the mesh curtain on the stage the appearance of opaqueness. When shone from behind the curtain, the curtain was made transparent, and the area was illuminated and revealed. This technique enabled a way to distinguish different areas of Eel-Marsh house and allowed the use of silhouettes to provide different backgrounds and effects. Furthermore, the ‘foley’ technique created a terrifying atmosphere wherein it felt almost as if we were on the stage itself, consuming the exhilarating performances of the actors. The presence of the woman in black herself, was so impactful that she controlled the whole of the theatre, all were completely captivated and unable to focus on anything else but her terrifying appearance and performance.  

When exiting the theatre, the suspension of the fog and fine rain outside had a new effect; this performance fosters an emphasis on shadows and has you hoping that nothing unsettling will be revealed, which I am glad to say has so far been true! Devendra Varma believed that "the difference between terror and horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realisation”. I can confidently say that both terror and horror were integral to the experience of The Woman in Black, and I strongly encourage those who have not yet seen it, to go and watch it. 


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