The last play I saw Lucy Morrison direct was Plaques & Tangles, a crushing tale about three generations of a family blighted by Alzheimers. It threw the audience into the sufferer’s mind, jolting back and forth in time, revealing itself only in fragments.
Her latest play, Robert Alan Evans’ The Woods, takes same techniques to their logical conclusion, weaving a tale of madness and grief that remains impenetrable throughout.
The little upstairs theatre at the Royal Court is covered in wood-chip and lined with trees. A woman appears to be living in a forest shack in the Deep South, having taken in a mute teenager she found in the rain. Another man in a Kill Bill tracksuit, who may be her son, or a figment of her imagination, seems to want to kill her, or himself, or the boy. Every so-often a modern kitchen becomes visible above the audience, a scene of domesticity so far removed from the miserable woods that it looks absurd.
The play is essentially a series of surreal vignettes punctuated by frequent, disorientating blackouts. Accents shift, outfits change, things catch fire; you can piece together a loose idea of what’s going on, but to try to unravel it all is to miss the point. The Woods is an unflinching portrait of insanity, recreating an interior world that’s broken beyond repair, where nothing will ever make sense again. In that regard it’s a success, albeit a bleak one.