The Woman In Black | Director's Note
The Woman in Black was first published as a novel by Susan Hill in 1983. Following in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, Henry James and Edith Wharton, it relies on atmosphere, on hints, glimpses and suggestions, on what is shadowy, heard and sometimes only half-seen, to chill the reader’s blood. Playwright Stephen Mallatratt read the novel on a beach in Greece – not the most conducive environment to being drawn into Hill’s misty, terrifying world, and yet he was. His imagination carried him through the story, painting pictures of a distant coastal town, the eerie isolation and grandeur of an empty house, a graveyard, some marshes and an ineffable horror that pervades. When a small theatre commissioned Mallatratt to come up with a modest, end-of-season Christmas show, he remembered the effect that The Woman in Black had on him and rightly supposed that the imagination of his audience could work as his had. Mallatratt's adaptation for the stage remains entirely true to the book itself and uses much of Susan Hill's own descriptive writing and dialogue, while transforming the novel into a gripping piece of theatre.
From the moment it opened in Scarborough in 1987, The Woman in Black has enthralled audiences. What began as low-budget ‘filler’ for the Christmas season transferred to the West End in 1989, garnering rave reviews and a cult following. Decades later, Mallatratt’s play has a permanent home in London’s Fortune Theatre and continues to satisfy the public’s age-old willingness to suspend disbelief and surrender to the magic of an electrifying tale.