The Woods ★★★★ Southwark Playhouse | Feb 24 - Mar 26, 2022


One person's stereotype might be another's archetype. David Mamet's 1977 play about a complex, codependent couple explores a common construction of masculinity and femininity. Ruth (Francesca Carpanini) clings to a relationship that is deeply dysfunctional while Nick (Sam Frenchum) flees from commitment. The play might be seen as dated in presentation of gender roles, but it is still a powerful, enduring statement about trust and neediness. Its warning about the darkness that can be found by going too far into the mythic woods, and demanding certainty where there can be none is as true today as when it was written. Frenchum does a masterful job capturing Nick's neuroses, and his stellar performance is matched by Carpanini's conjuring of a character who similarly draws on a broken past to thwart a compromised present. Director, Russell Bolam does a fine job of capturing Mamet's spare and stilted presentation of their relationship which is fraught with undertones unresolved and unarticulated: a neediness that tellingly exposes hidden truths and simmering violence. Like all of Mamet's work, the deep darkness at the heart of his characters and their situation is bared as much as much by implication as by their words or actions, and the easy paths of renewal and redemption are eschewed. Ultimately, the woods of the human heart are a place where one can be easily lost, and time does not favour those who want certainties like forever. The Woods offers a perspective on truths of the moment and a look into some uncomfortable verities.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Pamela Raith.

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