Venue: Drama Barn
Director: Georgia Harris
Producer: Tom Keefe
The first play I saw at the Drama Barn, the production that stole my Barnginity, was Autumn term’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
In the most positive way possible, it molested me in every available orifice. It was one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had, culminating with my having to turn down a vibrant party going on near me and listen to the associated squeals of ecstasy all night.
When I heard about Forest, I was excited enough that I thought I had a chance to relive that.
The concept was one of the most innovative I have ever seen in the Barn. The idea is that fictionalised, flawed characters help someone get through an anxiety attack. These fictionalised characters are represented with names such as “Fallow Deer” (Mungo Tatton-Brown) and “Tawny Owl” (Joseph D’Angelo), all trying to help “Little One” (Amy Milton) to find her way through the ‘forest’ and be okay again, because she’s afraid of tomorrow. It makes me convulse a little thinking about it.
Amongst other things, the play was trying to illuminate something abstract that we try to explain to flatmates with limited success all the time.
Indeed, the psychological ferocity and powerful reality were fairly amazing. The cast, particularly Red Squirrel, were generally sublime at conveying and representing different strands of human character. I occasionally felt pieces of myself float before me.
The silvicultural set design was shrilly evocative of the dark, deleterious mental landscape it was going for. The costume design and face paint were a tad ostentatious and lurid, but their application nonetheless blossomed vividly and hauntingly on the vespertinal visages of the actors. It felt like a more well-thought out aesthetic than many other Barn shows.
With such boldness, I felt that the acting had to be unique and have a definite dreamy, subtle texture to it. This was accomplished in parts and particularly shined through on the ‘you can’t stop time’ segment at the end. However, I felt that, whilst excellent a lot of the time, Amy’s acting did not fully match the phantasmal plenitude of the rest of the play. I also sometimes felt that the play sometimes failed transmit its laudable ambitions properly. The play needed real gusto to take off and connect with the audience, which was amiss from time to time.
That said, director Georgia Harris had to marry together a number of diverse acting styles to create something with a fundamental sense of purpose, and she did this very well. Joseph D’Angelo, portraying Tawny Owl, I have only ever seen play comedy roles, and he played well against type as the philosophical, staid owl. The play also had a good soundtrack, which felt a little inappropriate at times but turned out to work well in general, usefully adding psychedelic guitar riffs and lulling piano.
Forest was one of the most innovative productions at the Drama Barn, and an excellent work of art. Tonight I will bend down the branches of my own consciousness as I think of its mossy depths. I am glad that Georgia Harris has managed to avoid and axe many of the usual theatrical narratives we’re used to.
I will have to find another way to lose my dramaturgical virginity again.
The title of this review has been edited from the original published version, removing the misleading article “the”.