Theatergoers are in for a fright when the Cayman Drama Society stages “The Woman in Black,” opening Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Prospect Playhouse.
Adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the 1983 novel by Susan Hill, the chilling drama was first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in 1987, then opening in London’s West End 1989, where it is still being staged. It is one of the longest-running non-musicals of the popular theater district.
The play remains faithful to the original story line, in which a junior solicitor, Arthur Kipps, attends the funeral of a client, Alice Drablow. While there, he must wind up Mrs. Drablow’s affairs. However, he discovers she has led a reclusive life in a remote and mysterious house, which the locals believe is cursed. While attending the funeral, he sees a wasted young woman, dressed all in black, standing in the churchyard. The locals are reluctant to talk of the woman in black – and her terrible purpose. He soon discovers a dreadful secret, to his own terrible cost.
Martin Tedd, a veteran on the Playhouse stage, has the lead role of Kipps, alogside Adam Cockerill as the “Actor.” Nicola Galvin provides a cameo performance as the woman in black.
Paul de Freitas, theater manager and director/producer of “The Woman in Black,” said each actor feels that the experience of bringing the thriller to the stage has been one of the most challenging events of their acting careers, especially for Tedd and Cockerill, who are on stage for the entire performance.
“Ghost plays are a rarity in theater. It is easy to create a modern, high-tech, back-projected scary experience, especially with the occasional loud noises, but it is not easy to do so through the spoken word, normal visual imagery, and everyday sounds,” Freitas said.
“Stephen Mallatratt, the author, has managed to achieve this, and if he were still alive, I think that he would be drawn to the Cayman Drama Society’s production because it follows his concepts and wishes. There have been many performances of ‘The Woman in Black’ by amateur companies, but in reviewing them via the Internet, most overdo the tech side. The story tells itself, clean and pure, and with accomplished actors it is worth the telling and the viewing in Mallatratt’s way.”
Freitas added, “The play is chilling. In our first look at Act 2 on stage, Adam Cockerill suddenly stopped the rehearsal in its tracks with the remark, ‘This is creepy – the hairs on my arms are rising.’”
As such, the play is recommended for those 12 years and older.
Rehearsals began in earnest last October, with the cast having to get to grips with a large script and challenging scenes.
“Martin Tedd brings a wealth of accents to the characters he plays, and all actors display a sensitivity to the material,” Freitas said. “In particular, Adam Cockerill has to portray house interiors, wide open marshes and other locations in a 24-foot-by-16-foot acting space. Nicola Galvin brings a tremulous voice quality to certain sound effects and superb movement. All contribute equally of their skills to the production.”
The Woman in Black will be staged Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. through Feb. 14. Tickets are $25, and $15 for students. They can be purchased online at cds.ky or by calling the box office on 938-1998.