Saturday 19 March 2022

The Woods - Review

Southwark Playhouse


Written by David Mamet
Directed by Russell Bolam

Francesca Carpanini and Sam Frenchum

Catching up with The Woods late in its run at the Southwark Playhouse, offers an opportunity to consider this by-now well matured interpretation of David Mamet's 1977 study of the sexes. 

Covering one night from dusk to dawn the tight two-hander sees Nick and Ruth staying at his remote summer house in the northern USA. Mamet deliberately leaves the history of the couple's relationship opaque, it is evident that there once was a burning love between the pair, the smouldering ashes of which are extinguished before our eyes in the play's 90 minute one-act narrative. 

Mamet's text outlines a clear connection with nature and the gods even as Nick and Ruth’s love breathes its last, flailing like a landed fish that dies before our eyes. Sam Frenchum's Nick is the more damaged of the two, lurching from tender intimacy through to violent misogyny. But while Nick clearly can exert physical power over Francesca Carpanini's Ruth, it is she who ultimately wields the emotional axe. 

Typically Mamet holds the drama's darkest menace back until the play's bloodied, enigmatic endgame but as Nick loses control, Ruth emerges to dominate her beastly, beasted ex-lover by the final curtain.
Russell Bolam directs with sensitivity with an equal nod to Haruka Kuroda for staging the moments of undoubtedly complex intimacy with a convincing authenticity. Likewise, Anthony Lamble’s simply stark set and Bethany Gupwell’s lighting are as effective.

A rarely performed piece, this iteration of The Woods has one week left to run and is well worth seeing.

Runs until 26th March
Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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