The Big Issue, 31st October 2005
Dark Woods Beyond
Dark Woods Beyond is a vivid fusion of dark,
traditional European folk tales of the evil unknown, with Cold War
paranoia. Suspicions lurk in every cupboard and beneath every
stair for Lena and Anna, two sisters left alone by their father's
untimely death. Moved to a shabby apartment with nothing save for
their own festering secrets, their world is cold-water discomfort,
rationing and fear.
Their father was a renowned psychotherapist who
was not shy about using his daughters as guinea pigs, applying
insults about their looks and weight in an attempt to manipulate
them into being beautiful slim young women. In isolation they have
come to rely on each other in a symbiotic relationship of support
and fear, Lena braving the world and the wolves beyond to save her
The arrival of the mysterious Mathilde changes
everything. Her outside influence upsets their delicate veneer of
composure as secrets struggle to surface and lies hang in the air
like the smell of old cabbage. As the reliance of the two sisters
is split apart, it becomes unclear who is dependent upon who and
why. Lena does everything outside because Anna is afraid to, but
who made her afraid?
Christopher William Hill's story layers mystery
over conundrum and superstition to create a 'heart in the throat'
level of suspense. The wolves scratching at the door are a
terrifying threat - if they exist - but not as terrifying as what
Sarah Jane Downing
Plymouth Evening Herald, 25th October
Bloody good show from Bedlam
Author Christopher William Hill is a busy man.
Among his earlier plays are Lam, premiered at Exeter’s Northcott
Theatre, and Blood Red, Saffron Yellow which played at the Drum.
He is currently writing another play for the Northcott Theatre,
and two more for the Theatre Royal.
This thriller builds insistently to a chilling
climax. The set is a dingy kitchen in a block of flats, occupied
by sisters Lena and Anna. Lena looks after Anna, whose mind is
fragile. While Lena is out obtaining the meagre necessities for
their existence Anna cowers at home, ignoring the telephone,
terrified of going out in case the wolves get her. Such, explains
Lena, has been the fate of other people in the block.
Into their claustrophobic lives comes Mathilde
— not her real name, but that is the one on the passport Lena
finds in the raincoat pocket.
Mathilde assumes the role of their servant, and
after learning about the sisters’ former home leaves to visit it.
On her return she tries to explain to Anna that all Lena reports
is lies. The truth about Anna’s past is unveiled - how she almost
scratched to death a delivery boy she found in a compromising
position with Lena, then killed her psychiatrist father, though
she recalls none of these events. Since then Lena has hidden and
protected Anna, but when the three confront the truth the
narrative escalates into a bloody and tragic ending.
The cast portray these characters powerfully,
yet with telling nuances. Liane Jose sustains the delicate
balances within Anna’s mind, never overstepping the mark into
caricature or melodrama. Tori Cannell keeps us guessing as Lena,
and Emma Spurgin Hussey is even more enigmatic as Mathilde.
A compelling 90 minutes of twists and