The Woods intermingles a fairy tale and a woman’s personal tragedy, of post partum depression. The woman, played by Lesley Sharp, is lost in a dark forest. She tries to save a boy, played by Finn Bennett, and also stay safe from the wolf, played by Tom Mothersdale, lurking outside her cabin.
These scenes are interspersed with flashbacks into another life, where the woman is younger and living in a modern apartment. The use of a fairy tale to discuss this woman’s depression is effective as it allows the audience to enter into the woman’s mind and her muddled thoughts.
Each piece of the puzzle making up the staging of The Woods fits together to create an atmosphere of a psychosis-fuelled fairy-tale and it works. From the moment the play begins, there is a sense of oppression within Naomi Dawson’s design of the wood. The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs has been transformed into a forest, where trees surround the audience and small pieces bark litter the floor. This setting is intensified by Anthony Arblasters’s lighting design as well as Tom Gibbons’ music and sound design. Both lighting and sound serve to overload the senses in this already oppressive environment.
Thank All three actors Tom Mothersdale, Finn Bennett and especially Lesley Sharp are transfixing to watch. They all bring their own energy to the stage and feed off of each other. Tom Mothersdale plays the wolf, who changes disguises again and again to trick the woman. The enjoyment the wolf feels torturing the woman is palpable, disturbing, and somehow riveting. Finn Bennett speaks very few lines but his presence on stage is magnetic and fuels the central plotline.
Lesley Sharp is however the driving force of the play. The narrative interweaves her depression, her hallucinations, and multiple personality disorder in a way that at times feels confusing. However, Sharp jumps between the various elements of the performance seamlessly, making the audience jump along with her and follow her into the depths of the dark forest of this character’s mind. Despite being at times slightly confusing, this piece is mastered by all the artists involved in its creation. This makes the piece very moving, at times disturbing and intensely real within the four walls of the theatre.
Review written by Elizabeth Leemann.
The Woods is currently showing until Saturday 20th October 2018 at the Royal Court Theatre. For more information on the production, visit here…