A WALK IN THE WOODS
by Lee Blessing.
Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR To 12 November.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 4pm & 2 Nov 2pm.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7328 1000.
Review: Carole Woddis 17 October.
Still has something to say.
Where will the Tricycle go after Nick Kent? It’s quite a thought, so distinctive has Kent’s mark been upon the theatre which in recent times has seen some of the most controversial political events of our time dramatised through his now-famous staged tribunal hearings.
It’s typical of him therefore that he would bow out with a season exploring probably the single most problematic political worry that has hung over mankind since the end of the Second World War – the Nuclear Bomb.
Lee Blessing’s award-winning 1987 two-hander kicks off the season (which runs to next February) in a revival directed by Kent himself. How serious, it asks, are those who negotiate on our behalf for world peace? And how far are they able to act on their own initiative?
In a portrait that wittily sets national traits – Russian cynicism and American idealism – against each other, it’s a drama that still carries some resonance, even if the nuclear arms race is not the issue currently uppermost in most people’s minds. Paradoxically that says something about the success of negotiators – here fictionalised by Blessing as past-masters of pointless posturing.
Blessing cleverly manages to wring the changes in a two-hour park bench conversation that carries slightly less zip than Michael Frayn’s later Copenhagen (which also employed diplomatic-scientific walks in the woods) but nonetheless entertains through its wry psychological insights into the real-politik that goes on – or did – between the super powers.
Blessing contrasts a wily Soviet – Steven Crossley nicely suggesting an old hand who has seen it all and knows how to employ every distracting ruse – with his younger, newer, American opponent.
Kent brings things up to date by replacing Blessing’s original male American negotiator with a female in line with recent American Foreign Secretaries. The result is an amusing battle of wills that strays into gender roles as well as star wars arenas.
Blessing tends to the stereotypical but Miriam Cyr, eyes narrowing, freshly determined and tending towards the humourless, makes a good foil for Crossley’s increasingly dilettante Russian adversary for whom personal diversions are his only weapon against a deadening disillusionment. Timely.
Andrey Botvinnik: Steven Crossley.
Joan Honeyman: Myriam Cyr.
Director: Nicholas Kent.
Designer: Polly Sullivan.
Lighting: Matthew Eagland.
Sound: Ed Borgnis.
A Walk in the Woods was first produced on Broadway at the Booth Theater. It premiered in London at The Comedy Theatre in 1988, featuring Sir Alec Guinness, in his final stage role, as Andrey Botvinnik.