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In A Forest Dark and Deep

So that is the trailer for In A Forest Dark and Deep which finishes its 12 week run at the Vaudeville theatre on 4th June. The trailer implies a play which would provide a lot more tension than it actually delivered. Also the nature of the trailer is stylised whereas the play aimed for naturalism completely - with a detailed set of an apartment, and references to the characters' lives prior to this night.

The situation is described in the trailer as 'one brother, one sister, one thrilling evening' - now the first two aspects of that clause were fulfilled - but the latter, not so much. Neil Labute plays with expectations: both the characters and the situation are not how they first appear. However, there were so many twists, turns and forced revelations that it became almost ridiculous. It just felt too much like these turns in the narrative were more for the effect of manipulating the audience than crucial to the development of actual tension. Rather than being thrilled I grew frustrated and bored. The acting was at times superb, but a hundred minutes of shouting and crying grows tiresome: especially when the situation and relationship felt contrived. Bobby and Betty's relationship, such as that of many siblings, is loaded with scathing comments - difficulty being around eachother, and yet an innate affection towards eachother. The playful moments of silliness between the siblings such as dancing to rock music just felt forced: the intimacy and ease with which this sort of relationship exists did not feel present in the acting.

It all just felt too much of a cliché: the gestures with which the familial bond was displayed and also the way the play was staged. If the play felt claustrophobic that was its intention: one of the play's more successful points - the singular setting of the apartment and with no interval: Betty is stuck with her brother, and we are equally trapped within that environment. The use of a storm being the backdrop to the whole play felt gratuitously unecessary: adding nothing to the narrative nor to the apparent atmosphere it was trying to create.

I actually mentioned this play in one of my earlier posts, in reference to famous names coming into the West End, hiking up ticket prices and bringing in an audience wishing to see someone 'off the telly' - in this case Matthew Fox, or 'Jack from Lost'. Since then I've had a rethink about that attitude. It's sort of snobbish to hold discrimination against actors who we know from television coming into the theatre. There's several mediums in which one can act and to cross between them is fine: it just feels like a famous name takes away something - its a novelty and a distraction. If the actor's good enough then there's no problem, they've been cast for their merit rather than their name, it's just frustrating when that's not the case.

As we walked to the pub after leaving the theatre, we talked about what we thought - and my Mum thought I had become too critical, which made me think. Through being at university studying drama, seeing a lot of theatre over the years and also through expressing my thoughts on what I see in this blog - there comes an inevitability of becoming critical. To me, this is not a negative. I don't sit in a theatre and immediately go into cognitive overdrive, analysing what I'm seeing: I simply sit, watch and hopefully enjoy. It's just that afterwards I'm finding I'm beginning to express why it is I did or didn't like something. That doesn't take away from the actual theatre experience, it's just a different way of thinking about what you've seen afterwards. My parents both enjoyed the play, although my Dad noted that the twists in the narrative were predictable - which was another problem with the play: little hints were given that then made it easy to skip to a conclusion and consequently detach. My mum enjoyed it, but when asked if she would have enjoyed it just as much if Matthew Fox hadn't been in it: she could only muster that she thought she would.

If you still fancy seeing this play, there's still four nights of performances left and more info can be found here.