Pulitzer Prize winning author David Mamet, has once again proved how intuitive he can be in producing such an engaging dialogue between just two people – worlds apart on one level and on another, exactly the same – in his play, The Woods.
5pound theatre, an ensemble based theatre company in Melbourne, played host to all of the secrets of daily life and of struggle and of truth about what it means to be human. Hannah Norris (Ruth) and Jason Cavanagh (Nick) were all that was needed to bring to life an intensely rich script. One that sought to discover, through a lengthy mutual cross examination, the insecurities of these lovers, who have decided to leave the city in order to explore their many selves.
The Woods is an anecdote and even a delivery of one's cold dark abyss that can only be heard when there is silence. The silence these two characters desired was the setting of a lonely ranch, away from any distractions and away from any false pretenses. Mamet's play resonated instantly with its ground floor of realism and first floor of symbolism. It was a rollercoaster of emotional slurs and of reactions to guilt, shame and malice. Before long the room is full of love, passion, confusion and a scenic demand to smell the wild isolation and hear the cries of nostalgia.
Nick with his well coated stories of his father's heroics and Ruth's high expectations, really placed us on our heads, guessing when an explosion would inevitably reach this stage.
They were both story tellers living on the fringes of the past and sure of a future they could just not attain. In this story it was okay for men to cry and seek the comfort of boyhood. It was okay for the confusion of sexual identity to be spoken about. It was even okay to be honest enough to speak of hate and confusion and inadequacy.
The audience was laughing at the beginning at some of the repetition within the script, but when a subtext evolved into a serious but completely real world of anger and regret, not even the metaphors could hide the struggle these two protagonists were feeling. Nothing could hide the transformation we were feeling or even the way the stage heated up with colours of sour brittle screams and liquid resolutions.
Meanwhile as emotions were stirring in the room, we were living a fantasy of the sea, a daydream with the fishes. All of nature was there in this eloquently developed script, read and lived so well by the two performers. Two people searching for answers about commitment and irrational outcomes. When they drank from their wine and when they forgot about talking in riddles, we were taken once again to another place – away from the inhibitions of the city and of fear. This time it could be best described as perhaps uncomfortable reality. Two almost sex scenes and a violent outburst made us forget we were in a theatre and to merely say engaging would be an understatement.
This play is what a good story is. It is neither fancy nor is it camouflaged with riskless speech. It is quite simply a revelation of what everyone has done or has had done to them. Not recommended for a young audience, but perhaps the more mature of minds could also not hide a shudder or two.
5pound theatre presents
by David Mamet
Director Susannah Frith
Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat | 34 Swan Street Richmond
Dates: July 27 – 30, 2011