Wednesday, 11 May 2011

In a forest dark so deep

In a forest, however, not so dark and definitely not so deep.

Neil Labute tries to portray a harrowing and at times somewhat incestuous sibling relationship and rivalry, however his attempt falls short as their constant bickering over the on hundred minute period becomes very tedious, irritating and rather cringe worthy. One moment in particular which I found almost unbearable to watch; (Matthew fox) brother to Olivia Williams character; Bobby, who we are led to believe is an uneducated hick , and Williams herself partake in a rather stilted 5 minutes of air guitar to pearl jam, lacking humour I can only be led to believe that scene existed merely to fill the time.

The play starts intriguingly enough and the set was actually rather fantastic, the entire play takes place in a log cabin in the American outback. We are introduced to sister Betty (Williams) , a pedantic and neurotic dean of a liberal arts college.  She  is attempting to pack up the cabin to move out books and other items left by a student tenant and thus requires assistance from somewhat estranged brother Bobby, as  he owns a van. Betty, married with two kids, is a self-conscious intellectual while Bobby appears to be a crude philistine who at one point asks if the tenant was gay because he reads the New Yorker and has posed pictures of himself. As the unpacking continues after some initial high pitched quarrelling and bickering , Bobby discovers a rather compromising and incriminating  picture of Betty and the student holding each other all assumptions and previous quarrels are put on a back burner.

La Bute is obviously attempting to create a high state of tension but the story is revealed at an alarmingly quick pace with one level of reaction from both characters, both Williams and Fox chose to scream and shout their way through the entire performance, at times I found myself peering at my watch praying there would be an interval for my ear drums to rest, however the performance ran without an interval and therefore my poor ears were forced to suffer such torture.

Perhaps it is only fair for me to award Fox with some credit as he was at times convincing as the tough, hick and brute of a brother but it was made easier by the fact that his native accent is American. However, Williams really struggled to keep up a convincing American twang; in her high pitched screeches it wasn't hard to see her slip ups.

Labute is trying to express a sense of unrelenting truth and the sin of immorality to his audience, yet once again this is lost entirely in a warbling and unnecessary back log of dialogue, which at peak moments became rather mind numbing. I was also confused as to whether we were supposed to see glimmers of an incestuous relationship between the siblings; at one moment Fox grabs Williams in a lustful manner but yet again the wailing and screeching created by Williams blurred that entire concept.

It is a shame to see such great actors crumble at the feet of such a terribly written stage play, what is revealed could have been uncovered in twenty minutes yet was dragged out for what seemed like a life time of an hour and a half.

Apologies for the brutal honesty but take this as a warning, do not waste your hard earned cash on this performance.