Insightful Cultural Hour talk from Actor Ben Deery | Epsom College
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Insightful Cultural Hour talk from Actor Ben Deery

Professional actor, Ben Deery, delivered a Cultural Hour talk which focused on Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and his experience of the stage adaptation. Here Nara Aligulova (Cr) reports on the visit:

“The first part of the talk described the complexity of Hill’s ghost story, as it dissociated itself from its predecessors. Ben explained how the novel evokes a fearful reaction from its readers not through ‘jump scares’ but through the subtle creation of suspense in which the reader’s imagination plays a key role. It is the unknown that we are afraid of, and that stimulates the mind.

“Ben referenced Freud’s famous essay The Uncanny and showed extracts from Spielberg’s Jaws to help us better understand Hill’s technique. It also demonstrated that being an actor involves a lot of research.

“In the second part of the talk, Ben talked to us about his own experience with the play adaptation of The Woman in Black.

“He told us the story of how the adaptation came about and how he acted in the 2011/2012 version. Ben let us in on a funny anecdote that occurred during the last dress rehearsal when nerves were already high. The actress playing the woman in black was unavailable and so when it came to the moment where Ben’s character turned around to see the ghost, he expected to see an empty stage. However, a dark figure in full make-up and costume was standing there: stock-still. After the initial shock, he assumed that the Director had played a joke on him and that his female acting colleague was, in fact, available after all – but then he saw her sitting in her everyday clothes in the audience. So who was the woman in black? The Director later confessed that he had hired a different actress just to create a moment of genuine terror for Ben that he could draw upon in performance.

Overall, the talk was extremely interesting and was the first of its kind in the College, where an actor talks about their experiences in the industry.

“Along with some other students I also had the pleasure of having lunch with Ben, where he shared stories from his career and the different roles he had played, such as Caliban in The Tempest and Edmund in King Lear. He was a very delightful and humorous person and we hope he comes back to the College in the years to come.”