The Woman in Black: Articles

The Articles section includes articles and interviews with the creators of the original production of The Woman in Black - the author Susan Hill, the adaptor, Stephen Mallatratt and the director, Robin Herford - as well as other relevant articles. Click on a link in the box below to access the relevant article.

This article was written by The Woman in Black's adaptor Stephen Mallatratt for inclusion in the published edition of the text.

An Adaptor's Note

Directors are unlikely to have much experience of ghost plays as there are relatively few around, so at the risk of stating the obvious I think it's worth a word or two concerning staging. I've now seen many productions of The Woman in Black around the world, some very effective, others less so.

The intent of the show is to frighten - so if it doesn't, it's nothing. The fear is not on a visual or visceral level, but an imaginative one. There are no gouts of blood nor any but the simplest of special effects.

Darkness is a powerful ally of terror, something glimpsed in a corner is far more frightening than if it's fully observed. Sets work best when they accommodate this - when things unknown might be in places unseen.

I have seen a production where the Woman herself was in full light for all her manifestations, and centre stage. Few things could have been less frightening. In the current London production we deny the audience a satisfying look at her until her final moment, and only then does she appear in all her terrifying despair.

The only aspect of the play that has any claim to complexity is the sound plot. There's also scope, though no obligation, for a wealth of light cues. In general, simple, straightforward Staging is the most effective. For example there are one or two moments when just by raising the volume of a sound cue to an unexpected level, the audience can be shocked to screaming pitch.

There are anachronisms and geographical inconsistencies within the text. These are not mistakes, but indications of the neverland we inhabit when involved with the Woman in Black.

Stephen Mallatratt, January 1998

"He is mine. Why should I not have what is mine? He shall not go to strangers. I shall kill us both before I let him go."

Copyright: Stephen Mallatratt from the Samuel French edition of The Woman in Black. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.