Haunting the West End for 30 Years
The Woman in Black is the second longest-running play on the West End (behind Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap). Here are a few highlights from this spine-chilling play’s journey to long-lasting acclaim.
Author Susan Hill publishes her novel, The Woman in Black. The book is written in the style of classic gothic literature.
Director Robin Herford reads Hill’s novel and is “immediately impressed by its evocative power.” When thinking about the adapting the book into a play, he was concerned about the number of characters featured. However, adapter Stephen Mallatratt skillfully designed the script to feature just two actors.
Mallatratt’s adaptation of The Woman in Black, directed by Herford, first performs in the English city of Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre, billed as a “Christmas ghost story.” The house was intimate enough that the actors were able to whisper their opening lines and still be heard. Opening night was so well received that the rest of the performance’s run was completely sold out by the next morning.
The production moved to the West End (London’s equivalent of New York’s Broadway) to the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre (550 seats) in January. However, with the continued popularity of the performance, the production moved theatres three more times in this year, from the Novello (named Strand Theatre at the time), to the Playhouse, to The Fortune. The Woman in Black has played at The Fortune Theatre ever since.
It was announced that this famed production of The Woman in Black would tour the United States for the first time in its history. The production you see today is just one stop on this history-making national tour.
Not just a book and a play, the story of The Woman in Black has been adapted and told through several other mediums:
1989: In the same year that this stage adaptation of The Woman in Black moved to the West End, a version adapted for television was produced for Britain’s ITV network.
1993: BBC Radio 5 produced an adaptation of the book, shown in four parts.
2004: BBC Radio 4 broadcast a version of the story that aired in less than one hour.
2012: A film version was released, featuring Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Arthur Kipps. The film featured a new adaptation that strayed from the narrative of the original source material.
The Fortune Theatre’s playbill for The Woman in Black