World Autism Awareness Week
3 Apr 2019
'THE WOMAN IN BLACK' GUIDE FOR ADULTS ON THE AUTISTIC SPECTRUM.
(This guide presumes the adult is familiar with basic theatre-going; where to collect tickets, how seating works, etc)
-'The Woman in Black' is a ghost story. It lasts for two hours, including a fifteen-minute interval one hour into the play.
-The Woman in Black' is at the Fortune Theatre on Russell Street, Covent Garden, in London.
-The maximum seating capacity of the Fortune Theatre is 420 people. There are three levels where people can sit. They are the Stalls, the Dress Circle and the Upper Circle. There is a bar on every level where you can buy drinks and snacks.
-There are Ladies toilets in the Stalls, in the Dress Circle bar, and on the way to the Upper Circle. There are only two Gents toilets in the theatre, one in the Stalls and one in the Upper Circle. There is a single toilet in Box A in the Dress Circle, which are used as a third Gents toilet.
-Because 'The Woman in Black' is a very quiet play, and certain noises from outside can be heard in the auditorium, there are some toilets that you can only use before the performance, during the interval, or after the performance. The toilets you cannot use during the performance are both Stalls toilets, the Box A toilet, and the Upper Circle Gents toilet. Males are allowed to use the Ladies toilet during the performance.
-The set is very basic. It looks like a stage in an old, abandoned theatre.
-The plot of 'The Woman in Black' is a story-within-a-story. On a literal sense, an old man and a young actor meet in an old theatre to tell a larger story, set many years ago. The larger story is about the old man (whose name is Arthur Kipps) when he was a young man. So part of what we see is set in the present, and with lighting and sound effects part of what we see is set many years in the past.
-As an old man, Kipps is still haunted by what happened to him. He has never told anyone what happened to him, and he wants to tell his friends and family. So he has employed the young actor to teach him to speak well enough to tell his story. The young actor finds Kipps' story will take too long if Kipps just reads it from a book. The actor has a better idea to tell the story - the two of them can perform it together. The actor can play Kipps as a young man, and Kipps himself can play all the other characters.
-When the play is in the present-day theatre, the lighting is fairly bright and there are no sound effects. When the play shows scenes that are set in the past, there are different lighting effects and sound effects to show different places. The two men onstage act as if these are provided by an unseen 'Mr Bunce.' They also use props, such as a wicker basket, to help tell the story.
-The first scenes show Kipps and the actor practicing and arguing about how best to tell the story. We do not see the point when the actor has the idea of the two of them playing all the characters, but in the second scene we see how he has begun playing the part of Kipps. As the actor plays Kipps (as an old man, and telling the story to his unseen audience) we find out that Kipps was prompted to tell his story by an incident recently on Christmas Eve.
-When they come to act the first scene set in Kipps' past, the actor begins playing young Kipps, and tries to get the older Kipps in the present to act the role of his past clerk Tomes and his past boss Mr Bentley. Older Kipps is not very good at acting the roles, until the actor gives him a pair of glasses to better adopt Mr Bentley's persona.
-From there, the rest of the story is told, with very few breaks back into the present. Older Kipps plays the rest of the characters very well, and even tells part of the story to the audience, though not as any of those characters. The young actor stays in the role of young Kipps, except for a few moments where the lighting becomes brighter again and he stops acting as young Kipps.
-The story that the two men tell is how Kipps, as a young man, was a solicitor sent to the northern town of Criffin Gifford to attend the funeral of a Mrs Alice Drablow. He also had to sort out her paperwork at her home, Eel Marsh House, which is located in the middle of vast marshland, and can only be reached along a single causeway. As young Kipps set about his business, he noticed that other people seemed to be afraid of something.
-The roles that older Kipps plays are; his old clerk Tomes, his old boss Mr Bentley, a rich landowner Samuel Daily, an unnamed innkeeper, a timid solicitors' agent Mr Jerome, and a quiet coach-driver Mr Keckwick.
-There will be loud noises at certain points throughout the play. Most of these are above ninety decibels. As this ghost story has scary moments, this performance is not advised for people who do not like scary stories. Sometimes you will hear the audience laughing and muttering after a scary part. This is because they have been scared, and it is a way of reassuring themselves that it is only make-pretend.
-There are only two people on the stage for the whole performance. If you see another person on the stage...
©Text by Mark Potter 2019
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