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The Woman In White

    by Wilkie Collins, adapted by David Morrison  


Drama Play: 'The Woman In White' by Wilkie Collins adapted by David Morrison

Drawing master Walter Hartright takes up a new appointment at the Fairlie household in Cumberland, and immediately falls in love with one of his pupils, Laura Fairlie. However, it transpires Laura has previously made a deathbed promise to her father to marry his old friend, Sir Percival Glyde, and feels duty-bound to honour that promise.

Then an anonymous letter arrives casting Percival as a villain, and warning Laura against marriage. Walter tracks down the author - a young woman called Anne Catherick - who was at school with Laura for a while, many years ago. She is dressed all in white and in Laura's image. She and Walter had earlier met by chance at Finchley just before Walter moved to Cumberland. There, she was revealed as an escaped lunatic, but she says she was placed in an asylum by Percival, to keep hidden a dark secret she knows about him from his past.

Mr Gilmore, the Fairlie's family solicitor arrives next day to finalise Laura's marriage settlement. He says the present wording disadvantages her, and advises her against signing - but she does, anyway. A heartbroken Walter leaves the same day, terminating his contract early, and later goes abroad. Laura marries Percival, and they move into his Hampshire house together with his sinister friend Count Fosco, and Laura’s half-sister, Marian Halcombe.

When Percival tries to deceive Laura into signing a loan document, it becomes clear he is desperately short of money, and when Anne Catherick suddenly re-appears, the revelation of his secret is again threatened. At his wits end, he confides in Fosco, who hatches an ingenious plot to solve both problems. Anne Catherick will be found and disposed of. She will be re-dressed as Laura and her body returned to Cumberland for burial. Percival will then inherit her estate. For her part, Laura will be seized and returned to the asylum in the guise of Anne

Marian is ill when the plan is put into action, but once recovered she is suspicious of the account of events given to her. She makes her own enquiries and quickly tracks down Laura. She helps her escape and, together with a recently returned Walter, they set about unearthing the truth.

When Walter makes a crucial discovery, Percival learns about it, but dies in a fire whilst trying to destroy the evidence. Walter eventually uncovers Percival's secret, and pieces together the events surrounding the exchange of Laura and Anne. But without proof, arch-schemer Fosco will escape justice, and Laura cannot be restored to her rightful position. Their only hope is to bluff Fosco into making a full confession - which they succeed in doing, and so justice is finally served.


(10m, 8f)

  • Anne Catherick - 20, a pale image of Laura (doubles with Laura Fairlie)
  • Walter Hartright - 28, a drawing master
  • First Man
  • Second Man
  • Servant - (m)
  • Marian Halcombe - 25, unattractive but intelligent
  • Mr Fairlie - 55, delicate, fretful and frail sounding, enjoys ill health
  • Laura Fairlie - 20, charming, slightly coy (doubles with Anne Catherick)
  • Mrs Clements - 60, housekeeper
  • Mr Gilmore - 45, respected solicitor with a sharp mind
  • Sir Percival Glyde - 45, commanding figure, a man of property
  • Count Fosco - 50, educated, charming, vain, arrogant, Svengalie type, outlandish dress
  • Maid
  • Driver - (m)
  • First Woman
  • Second Woman
  • Mrs Catherick - 45, the wronged woman, dresses in black
  • Mr Gilmore’s Clerk - (m)

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