Review: Florian Zeller Is So Hot Right Now But The Forest Leaves Us Cold

The Forest Hampstead Theatre ★★☆☆☆

Review: Florian Zeller Is So Hot Right Now But The Forest Leaves Us Cold The Forest Hampstead Theatre 2
Gina McKee and Paul McGann appear in the hugely disappointing The Forest. © The Other Richard

Florian Zeller is so hot right now. His intelligent and powerful study of dementia, The Father, bagged Oscars for both himself and Anthony Hopkins. This month he brings his new play The Forest to the Hampstead Theatre.

Zeller's previous works — including The Lie, The Truth and The Mother — have all been performed internationally and the stage version of The Father won various awards globally before it was made into a film in 2020. A sequel, The Son, is in the works with Hopkins joined by Hugh Jackman.

With all that in mind, a new work from the acclaimed French playwright — and king of the definite article — would be great news if The Forest wasn't such a pile of underwritten merde.

Zeller's signature theatrical trickery can't make up for a script which runs out of ideas long before the end.  © The Other Richard

At 80 minutes long, this brief and disappointing play comes with an English translation from usual collaborator Christopher Hampton. Quite where the fault lies for the unengaging and stilted language in this overblown story of deception, adultery and murder is unknown.

While it is not unusual to have an actor play multiple roles, (mis)using talents like ex-Doctor Who Paul McGann and ex-Bond villain Toby Stephens to play two aspects of the same character borders on the criminal. The star turn here is Finbar Lynch whose supremely sinister performance deserves high praise.

Zeller's signature theatrical trickery can't make up for a script which runs out of ideas long before the end. There are some glimpses in The Forest of genuinely interesting concepts but, unfortunately, it is hard to see the wood for the trees.

The Forest, Hampstead Theatre, until 12 March. The show is almost sold out, but there are one or two single tickets left. Or contact the box office for returns.

Last Updated 21 February 2022