Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
While in London a handful of years ago, R and I stopped by the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square and bought tickets for The Woman in Black playing since 1989 at the Fortune Theatre. We were prepared to be scared out of our wits but settled into the impossibly tight seating arrangements and smiled as the curtain opened. The first time I felt any sense of dread or the inclination to scream was when we paid the equivalent of over eight dollars for two tiny cups of ice cream, the sort with a flat spoon under the lid, at intermission.
The second act was something different altogether with the audience screaming several times and even jumping out of their seats at one point. It took me days to get the final scene out of my mind and I'll never think of rocking chairs with my old sense of blissful relaxation ever again.
Arthur Kipps, in hopes of putting some demons to rest, writes about a ghostly incident during his early career as a solicitor in London. Sent to organize documents at Eel Marsh House after the death of Mrs Drablow, he encounters an eerie sense of reserve about the place from the residents of the village. Located some distance away and due to the tide, the house virtually becomes an island as the water converges over the narrow trail leading up to it. Add in some dense fog, screeching birds and a sucking bog and you'd have to be half-mad to spend the night there. Or young and desperate to gain the respect of your senior colleagues at the law firm.
The spectre of a woman dressed in black, with a ravaged face of pale skin pulled tight against her features, haunts Arthur. And quite literally things do go 'bump' in the night. All of which threaten to scare poor Arthur to death as he digs through Mrs Drablow's pertinent papers with only a scruffy dog named Spider for company. The discovery of a packet of letters and three death certificates provide some answers but I'm certainly not going to tell you any more about that!
Susan Hill has the formula to get your heart pounding down to perfection. There is no blood or gore but every time the fog appears or the night would close in, I would tuck my chin down into my shirt and pull my knees up on the sofa. The movie version of The Woman in Black is set to open next month. Judging by the trailer there has been plenty of liberty taken with Hill's novel but I'm very much looking forward to being scared out of my wits for the third time by this story.