DARK WOODS BEYOND - Reviews

Photograph by Dave Brown Cornwall Theatre Showcase, Truro College

Photograph by Dave Brown photos@picastro.co.uk

 

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 sister.

 

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 lies within...

Sarah Jane Downing

 

 

Photograph by Rory Wilton - Barbican Theare October 2005

Photograph by Dave Brown photos@picastro.co.uk and Rory Wilton

 

 

Plymouth Evening Herald, 25th October 2005

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 revelations.

Bill Stone

 

 

Photograph by Dave Brown photos@picastro.co.uk

 

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