The Establishing Shot: The Woman in Black shock experiment. Which is scarier the play or the film? Test 1 – The Play

Thursday, June 14, 2012 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

The Woman in BlackA couple of nights ago I took part in an experiment to gather empirical scientific evidence to answer a question that has plagued mankind for ages. Which is scarier The Woman in Black play or the Daniel Radcliffe starring The Woman in Black film?

Well if you read The Establishing Shot you know I enjoyed The Woman in Black film and found it surprisingly chilling and a neat throwback to Hammer’s golden age films (you can read my thoughts here!) and I’m not the only one who must have thought it was entertaining as it has gone on to become the most successful British horror film of all time. But long before I heard about the film I had heard from a friend whose opinion I value that The Woman in Black play was brilliant as well as frightening. It’s been running for 23 years so they must be doing something right.

So getting an invite to participate was pretty serendipitous as I intended to see the play at some point and this would be a great opportunity to be able to delve into the scares that the play and the film deliver as I was to be rigged up with a heart rate monitor that would measure my reactions.

So last Tuesday I made way into the heart of the West End Play land to the Fortune Theatre to see The Woman in Black Play.
Here are the results of my two hour The Woman in Black shock test: Part 1 scareomometer reading.

woman in black test
Image: Woman in Black scareomometer heart rate test results from the play

Analysis of my heart rate:
My average sitting heart rate is around 69-73 bpm which is just better than average and the lower white line on the graph. I'm guessing standing, walking and interacting in the city of London raises my heart rate to a higher average rate of around 80 bpm.

I start at  around 98 bpm a mix of excitement at being out and about at the theater and finding out that all the other participants are gorgeous ladies. I head up to around (A) 107 bpm as the play starts, probably still cooling down from the walk and finding my seat etc.

At (B - 8:03pm) my BPM settles in at 79 bpm, only to be raised again (C- 8:11pm) when someone's mobile phone goes off despite several warnings & requests to turn it off. Again my bpm go up again when late arrivals are let in at (D - 8:20pm) before sliding in to a slightly raised but comfortable level until a dark shift in the tone of the play raises my bpm before sliding back into a raised comfort level.

Just after the intermission my bpm kick up to around 98 bpm (E) after a walk around, chat & refreshments.

During the second half of the play my hear rate is raised considerably with the tension of Arthur Kipps's tale, towards the end the play my heart rate monitor dies with my heart spiking past the maximum bpm it recommends - typically you would need to stop exercising at this point - but I am still alive as the audience cheer the great performance delivered by the star performers.

The first thing that struck me is the differences between the Play and film is that although the heart of the premise is the same the set up is slightly different as :

 The Woman in Black Play is about Proud and solitary, Eel Marsh House surveys the windswept reaches of the salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway. Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the house’s sole inhabitant, unaware of the tragic secrets which lie hidden behind the shuttered windows. It is not until he glimpses a wasted young woman dressed all in black at the funeral, that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold.  This feeling is deepened by the reluctance of the locals to talk of the woman in black – and her terrible purpose.

Years later, as an old man, he recounts his experiences to an actor in a desperate attempt to exorcise the ghosts of the past. The play unfolds around the conversations of these two characters as they act out the solicitor’s experiences on Eel Marsh all those years ago.

I was pleasantly surprised given that I had seen the film which is almost full throttle horror I was expecting something completely different and I have to say that there are scares, possibly less than the film’s dread filled 95 minutes, but I found the play incredibly inventive and entertaining beyond the scares. I was genuinely impressed with the high level of engagement and humour for a show that consists of fairly minimal props & locations (used to great effect) and relies heavily on the talents of two performers. Full credit to David Acton as Arthur Kipps and Ben Deery as The Actor - as it is outstanding and went way beyond my expectations. I absolutely loved it. If you read my thoughts on  The Woman in Black film you'll notice that I was pretty impressed with the chemistry & dynamics of the relationship between Daniel Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps and Ciarán Hinds’ older Mr Daily well there is a lot more of those kind of dynamics between the two performers as they share most if not all of the plays run time.

You can find tickets and more about The Woman in Black play here: http://www.thewomaninblack.com/

Well this evening I’ll be taking part in The Woman in Black shock experiment Test 2 – The Film. And while I suspect the film is going to prove to be a lot scarier I’ll have to wait for the results for a definitive answer which I'll report back.

The Woman in Black will be available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital download from 18th June 2012

THE WOMAN IN BLACK is undoubtedly the British cinematic success story of 2012, with a box office topping a staggering £21 million and audiences across the country left in no doubt that the film is a shock fest that has to be experienced to be believed.

Video: The Establishing Shot: The Woman In Black HD Home Release Trailer

Set for release on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on 18 June 2012, THE WOMAN IN BLACK is the most successful British horror film of all time and stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first feature film since the Harry Potter franchise of movies came to an end.  Based on the book by Susan Hill and with a screenplay by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, X-Men:  First Class, Stardust), THE WOMAN IN BLACK will undoubtedly scare away all competition as it storms to the top of the home entertainment charts.

The Woman In Black Poster
Image: The Woman In Black Poster

THE WOMAN IN BLACK tells the tale of Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter), a lawyer who is forced to leave his young son and travel to a remote village to attend to the affairs of the recently deceased owner of Eel Marsh House. Working alone in the old mansion, Kipps begins to uncover the town’s tragic and tortured secrets and his fears escalate when he discovers that local children have been disappearing under mysterious circumstances. When those closest to him become threatened by the vengeful woman in black, Kipps must find a way to break the cycle of terror.

With a fantastic supporting cast including Oscar® nominee Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs, Tumbleweeds), Ciarán Hinds (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife, Robin Hood), Shaun Dooley (Great Expectations, South Riding), and produced by the iconic Hammer Films, are you brave enough to spend time with THE WOMAN IN BLACK?