The Woman in Black: TimelineThis page presents a timeline of significant dates pertaining to - primarily - the world premiere production of The Woman in Black as well as its subsequent revivals at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
The Woman in Black
c. Spring 1986
Stephen Mallatratt, resident writer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough, reads The Woman in Black for the first time whilst oil holiday in Greece.
6 July 1986
Susan Hill responds to a letter from Stephen Mallatratt enquiring as to the possibility of adapting The Woman in Black for the stage. She agrees although has doubts to whether it is possible to manage it successfully.
Alan Ayckbourn takes a sabbatical from the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round to work as a company director at the National Theatre. He appoints Robin Herford as Director of Productions / Join Artistic Director to run the company day-to-day while he is away.
4 September 1986
A contract is drawn up between Susan Hill and Stephen Mallatratt for him to adapt The Woman in Black into a play. This contract divides all monies equally between the author and adaptor and is believed to be the root of the issue why the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round is not able to exploit its successful production later.
c. 1986 / 1987
At some point between September 1986 and September 1987, Stephen Mallatratt adapts The Woman in Black receiving the author's approval.
c. July 1987
Robin Herford has the idea of a "Christmas striking filler" to utilise the summer season's remaining budget on a small scale Christmas show in the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round's small end-stage studio space.
Robin Herford directs the world premiere production of The Woman in Black starring Jon Strickland, Dominic Letts and Lesley Meade. The design Is by Michael Holt, lighting by Mick Thomas and sound by Jackie Staines with additional sound provided by an uncredited Alan Ayckbourn.
11 December 1987
The Woman in Black opens in the end-stage studio space at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough; it is not premiered in the theatre's bar as some sources have incorrectly reported in recent years.
14 December 1987
The first reviews are published for The Woman in Black. They are mixed in their critical response, however word-of-mouth is exceptional. Extra chairs are squeezed into the space to slightly increase capacity and a number of extra performances are scheduled.
2 January 1988
The Woman in Black closes at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round following a successful production.
Subsequent to January 1988
It is realised the contract to stage future productions of the play limits the theatre's remuneration to just a limited percentage of Stephen Mallatratt's earnings up to the value of £5,000.
11 January 1989
The Woman in Black opens at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, directed by Robin Herford and starring Charles Kay, John Duttine and Nicola Sloane.
19 April 1989
The Woman in Black transfers to and opens at the Playhouse Theatre, London, directed by Robin Herford and starring Charles Kay, John Duttine and Nicola Sloane.
7 June 1989
The Woman in Black transfers again and opens at the Fortune Theatre, London, directed by Robin Herford. It will stay in the Fortune Theatre for the rest of its West End run and every cast change - approximately every six months - will be directed by Robin Herford.
C. Spring 1997
The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, is given special dispensation to revive The Woman in Black to mark the tenth anniversary production of the play; it is rumoured permission is given partly to account for the fact the company did not benefit from the London transfer of the original production.
11 December 1997
The Woman in Black is revived in the end-stage auditorium, The McCarthy, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. It is directed by Robin Herford and stars Peter Laird, Martin Freeman and Lesley Meade. It closes on 7 February 1988.
The Woman in Black becomes the second longest play to run in the West End after Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. It beats the previous 'second place' record of 6,761 performances held by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriott's farce No Sex Please, We're British.
The Woman in Black reaches its 9000th performance at the Fortune Theatre.
19 June 2015
The Woman in Black is revived in the end-stage auditorium, The McCarthy, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, to mark the company's 60th anniversary. The production is directed by Robin Herford and stars Christopher Godwin, Tom Godwin and Charlotte Brooke. It marks the first time a father and son have played the two roles in the play. It closes on 2 August 2015.
16 March 2020
All the UK's theatres are closed as a result of lockdown due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
7 September 2021
The Woman in Black re-opens at the Fortune Theatre after the 2020 / 2021 pandemic lockdowns.
9 November 2022
It is announced that, after 33 years of performance, The Woman in Black will close at the Fortune Theatre, London, in March 2023.
4 March 2023
The Woman in Black closes at the Fortune Theatre after approximately 13,000 performances.
"The young woman with the wasted face, behind you in the church and then in the graveyard here…"
Article by and copyright of Simon Murgatroyd, all rights reserved 2022. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.