The Woman in Black: ArticlesThe 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 author Susan Hill for the Stephen Joseph Theatre's tenth anniversary revival of The Woman in Black.
The Woman in Black: The Author
The Woman in Black
So it was with a strange sense of unreality that I walked down the slope towards the theatre on that first night of The Woman in Black ten years ago, there to meet not only Alan but Stephen Mallatratt for the first time - for we had only corresponded and spoken on the phone, well after he had finished the play, a brilliant adaptation of my novel, in which I had absolutely no hand. I was half expecting dozens of schoolboys in black and red blazers to ooze out of the woodwork!
I had been led to expect the play to run for three weeks in the studio, over the Christmas season of 1987. Since then I have seen it in a great many places, all over this country and with a number of different casts in the West End. It has become international! Robin Herford has directed it in Japanese - which he does not speak, in Tokyo, and Stephen and I saw a most remarkable performance in Barcelona, in Cualau. Neither of us speaks that language either, yet the production was so good, the performances so clear, that we felt as if we did. I have been recommended to see the play by a London taxi driver, whose wife took her hen-night party to it, had an Eton College Fifth former leap onto my knee in fright at one of its more startling moments, and heard a front-row member of the audience shout out a terrified warning to young Arthur Kipps, "Don't go through that door!"
Two moments stand out. The first was when I was backstage at a performance in the Cambridge Arts Theatre. The cast had been told that I was coming but I had slipped round just before curtain-up and not yet met anyone. I was sitting on a stool in the semi-darkness, looking through the spy hole at the audience when there was a tap on my shoulder. I looked round to see - a woman in black, wearing a poke bonnet, a woman with a ghastly, wasted face...
The second occasion brought home to me the true, international success of the play. I was at the International Shakespeare Conference, of which my husband was then President, in a beautiful old garden in Stratford upon Avon one blazing August Day five or six years ago, and I was told that a Japanese lady, a Shakespeare scholar of some repute, wanted to meet me. Usually, the scholars from wherever in the world they have come, wear normal European clothes, but this lady was dressed in the full formal splendour of Japanese costume, all printed silk kimono, with those little sticks through the elaborate construction of her hair. It was a strange and exotic sight in the middle of an English garden. Stranger was to come. She bowed most elaborately, and told me how honoured she was to meet me, which she had asked to do in order to tell me how much she had enjoyed the most excellent play of The Woman in Black. I assumed she had seen it in London or Tokyo, but she went on to say... "which I have been lucky enough to see in theatre on the Isle of Mull."
Since that first night in cold December in what I must insist was The Roys' High School, The Woman in Black has indeed travelled far - and is still travelling. Now it's travelled to the Odeon Cinema, where I once sang-along to the organ that rose out of the pit in the stalls, and was terrified by the film of The Ladykillers.
Susan Hill, 1997
"It seems to me Mr Daily, that I have seen whatever ghost haunts Eel Marsh."
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