Review: Fearnot Wood @ Et Cetera Theatre

The Tab takes a trip down to Fearnot Wood, Rob Thomson’s new play

Drama rob thomson theatre review

I was, at first, a little apprehensive about going to see the opening night of Fearnot Wood.

A play written by a student…I’ve seen one of those before, my inner snob reminded me; A two-hour long psychedelic interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream in the basement of a grotty Edinburgh café involving aliens and the occasional dildo.

Thankfully, Fearnot Wood, a new play written by Rob Thomson, was nothing like this experience. Whilst the midsummer night of nightmares at the Edinburgh fringe left me confused and angry, Fearnot Wood was thrilling, frightening and darkly comic.

 

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Set in Lewes, a historic town in Sussex, Garth comes back to visit his childhood home on Bonfire Night to enjoy the fireworks with his old friends, Evan, Dylan and Harriet. In the five years of his mysterious absence however, it’s not just his friends who have changed, but a dark shadow has been irrevocably cast over this once undisturbed town, since the mysterious disappearance of a child, two years ago also on bonfire night.

As the play unfolds, Garth’s shady past begins to catch up, and a man that comes to visit him seems determined to ruin his one night back home, as all comes together on the night of the fifth of November.

The small cast carried this sharply written play with great skill. Eoin Bentick as Garth in particular delivered a stunning lead performance keeping the audience in a constant state of suspense and comic unease and taking them on an emotional journey of guilt and regret. Apart from the amusing cameo of Mrs Krupshaw, the other characters were well fleshed out and developed satisfyingly throughout the course of the performance.

Wizz Douglas-Hamilton and Daniel Rogers as Harriet and Dylan provided light comic respite from tensions that lurked beneath the surface. My only criticism would be slight inconsistencies with the southern accents that occasionally descended into a mockey-esque drawl.

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What was best about this wittily written piece of black comedy was the uncertainty and suspense sustained throughout. The abrupt start sets the tone for the rest of the performance, with implicit and brief references to the past succeed in whetting the audience’s appetite for more. Themes of childhood innocence lost and guilt feature strongly and on this performance came out pertinently.

The skill of the writing and attention to detail is shown through the audience’s reactions; a quick laugh is followed immediately by a long silence as the dialogue darted smoothly between darkly comic moments with a deadly, violent undercurrent; at any moment it felt as if something horrific was about to happen. Monologues of ludicrous detail excellently delivered by Rob Beale as Horace are used to great comic affect, lightly veiling the tension beneath the surface.

The intimate venue complimented the feeling of entrapment felt by the main character. It also allowed for more subtle performances to be shown. Beyond the obvious shouting and swearing, it was the moments of self-realization that were most affective in the dialogue. The strong feelings of tension carried throughout as well as the realism were distinctly Pinteresque whilst elements of the plot and tone bared resemblance to the film In Bruges.

If only all student theatre was of this quality. My biggest problem with Fearnot Wood was that it was only running for three nights: the play deserves to be performed many, many times more.

 

Fearnot Wood is at the Etcetera Theatre Camden (253 Camden High Street 020 7482 4857), tonight and tomorrow. 

Written & Directed by Rob Thomson