by Thomas Eccleshare.
Soho Theatre (Upstairs) 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 8 June 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 30 May.
Captioned 23 May.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 April.
Fable of nature red in tooth, claw, root and branch.
Every so often the call is heard: ‘Back to nature!’ Thomas Eccleshare shows nature doing the returning, reoccupying cities in a lightning invasion. Old Moll’s tower-block flat is progressively destroyed as branches thrust through and flowers drop-in. Former pets maraud in cat-gangs, and even the voles look scary.
Michael Vale’s design gradually destructs as nature forces its way in, the view from the window changing from flat-block to thick, fox-patrolled, impenetrable forest.
Moll’s sons come to rescue her, saying it’s just a holiday, but the army’s sealed the area off. Nature, for no given reason (though it seems the north is safer), is relentless on its blindly purposeful march.
Within this Eccleshare, helped by Steve Marmion’s sympathetic production, develops a picture of society crumbling, implying the scale and pace of change through specific moments. Another family arrives, heralded by 11½ son Arthur with toy sword erect. He’s into computer games and has never heard of King Arthur but has natural spirit alongside thoughts conditioned by modern society. The dialogue between him and Moll, from the two ends of independent adult life, is particularly strong.
There’s grim humour when the supermarket delivery-man finally arrives, determined to avoid the sack (signs of the employment times) by turning-up but robbed by animals of food. Instead, he becomes a provision himself. Having introduced his characters, Eccleshare sends them to various fates, leaving grim possibilities to audience imaginations.
Finally, a bride abandoned by her wedding, or hen-party, picking-up Moll’s earlier description of one, arrives in a daze. Emerging sexuality and computer games make her seem a sex object to Arthur, distortions of nature over which the wild might also be taking revenge.
Polly Frame’s Arthur is clarified and distanced by the cross-sex casting, and catches the border between child and independent-minded teenager. It forms a contrast with Calder-Marshall’s quiet assurance as someone with sharp opinions but narrowing awareness of the world outside her own routines.
There are plenty of echoes of other plays but from its title – Pastoral being a term humans impose upon their idea of nature – on, Eccleshare’s play shows deftness and irony.
Mr Plumb: Nigel Betts.
Moll: Anna Calder-Marshall.
Ocado Man: Bill Fellows.
Arthur: Polly Frame.
Hardy: Richard Riddell.
Bride: Carrie Rock.
Mrs Plumb: Morag Siller.
Manz: Hugh Skinner.
Director: Steve Marmion.
Designer: Michael Vale.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound/Music: Tom Mills.
Fight choreographer: Dan Styles.
Assistant director: Charlotte Bennett.
Associate sound: Steve Seymour.