Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Way Through the Woods

Written by Imogen Commander
A Cilgwyn Theatre Company production
Pleasance Theatre, Islington
(2009)

Publicity graphic

The thought of a play set within the woodlands immediately brings to mind enchanted creatures, magic and evocative fairytale. However this incredibly simplistic and distractingly basic production has more in common with a wet walk through a muddy park than the mystical evening the title suggests.

The Way Through the Woods is the third production from Cilgwyn Theatre Company who specialise in creating 'unpretentious, entertaining and affordable theatre'. It tells the story of Katy (played by director Becca Cox) who, having been estranged from her family for fifteen years, is returning home for her father's funeral. As she and her brother Sam are packing away the sandwiches, she is suddenly transported into the Wet Woods where Sam is taken hostage by the gigantic and revengeful Wax Moth.

In order to get them home Katy must return to the earth her prized possession - a necklace given to her when she was last at home. But with the wicked Wax Moth wanting the necklace for herself, who will actually obtain it and thus unlock its numinous power?

The company have taken a rather rudimentary approach to the story's staging which results in a production that fails to transport its audience into the world of the Wet Wood. The simple set consists of a dining hall sized table (that also doubles as the Wax Moth's lair) and a dark wooden box that creatures come in and out of. This unsophisticated approach also extends to the costume, which fails to be convincing on any significant level.

We are thus never fully engaged by the action played out before us and the crude production methods simply serve as a distraction. This is particularly evident during the final scene when the Wax Moth is locked inside the forest - or the actress is trapped under a table. This constant distraction isn't helped by the fact that the stage is far too big and the characters and setting are continuously dwarfed.

It also fails to pinpoint its audience, with the lack of spectacle and wonder alienating children and the overly simplistic plot, characters and generic fairytale script disengaging adults.

Advertised as incorporating contemporary dance, the choreography in The Way Through The Woods also fails to impress and unfortunately adopts the same mediocre style previously seen with the setting and costume.

The cast of six do their best but with a clichéd script and pedestrian directing the balance was always tipped against them. That said Conrad Sharp does stand out as one of the better performances with his take on the Cat of the Wet Wood being relatively convincing. Also Sarah Blanc is quite amusing as one of the three curious monkeys which, incidentally, proves to be the only entertaining moment during the entire play.

The Way Through The Woods is Based on the short stories of Rudyard Kipling, but with a script that lacks any real detail and a production that lacks the fascination required for the story, this bland and unappealing production has failed to live up to expectation.

Reviewer: Karla Williams