Review: The Country @ Arcola Theatre

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We have come to expect the best from the Arcola Theatre and their current offering does not disappoint. Martin Crimp’s The Country is an absorbing, often fraught, exercise in the frailty and conflict inherent in human relationships.

We follow an affluent doctor and his wife as they embark on a new life with their children in the country. Their purportedly content lives are jolted by the appearance of an unknown young woman, who brings with her a volatile mix of present danger and past secrets; the resultant explosion triggers a gradual unravelling of credibility and loss of confidence in their very values and ideals.

The characters’ failure to communicate effectively or to achieve an understanding of the others’ motivations leads to tense, forced conversations littered with misunderstanding and repetition. The prosaic chat of every day life is delivered in unemotional, detached tones; the continual and damaging interruption into their lives from the outside is an ever strong presence.

Amanda Root (Corinne), Simon Thorp (Richard) and Naomi Wattis (Rebecca) play their parts strongly. The ever shifting power struggle is captivating as, one by one, each character seeks to assert themselves and to gain the initiative. As the plot unfolds we feel, in turn, sympathy and antipathy for each of them; the culminating tone of reconciliation provides us with a residual unease: there is still a lot left unsaid.

Richard Williamson’s intricate use of lighting adds ambience to this production and brings out the best of Anne Bliss Scully’s bucolic set in which the sparse interior setting contrasts effectively with the surrounding trees and foliage underfoot. The unreserved seating and circular stage contribute to an intimate feeling, drawing us into the centre of action.

The Country runs until 23 October at the Arcola Theatre.

By Rachel Phillips

See also:

Guide to the Arcola Theatre

Arcola launches bid to fund new home

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