Review: The Woods, Southwark Playhouse

I give David Mamet the benefit of the doubt with a trip to The Woods at Southwark Playhouse. I really shouldn’t have bothered.

“I can see your body anytime I want to”

I went to The Woods not in search of a big surprise but rather in the spirit of open-mindedness, given my antipathy towards David Mamet these days (I mean…). But looking back to this 1977 play, you’re not only unsurprised that it hasn’t been revived in the UK for 25 year, you’re left baffled as to how he was able to build the reputation he had.

Mislabelled a ‘battle of the sexes’ play, it is sympomatic of what can only be described as outright misogyny but which those more charitably inclined might call 1970s attitudes. Nick and Ruth have gone to a cabin in the woods for the weekend but once alone together, the strains in their relationship soon become apparent.

Because women want love yes? And men want sex. And women always like a bad boy, even when he has no care for consent when it comes to having that sex. The arguments here are so dated, dangerous even, in the way they want to set up a ‘conversation’ and it is really hard to see what anyone thought a contemporary production could bring to it.

Director Russell Bolam brings a committed cast – Francesca Carpanini and Sam Frenchum battling to layer something, anything, on Mamet’s characters that says anything to our world today. But they can’t, for when The Woods isn’t being downright desperate, it is in fact painfully dull.

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Pamela Raith
The Woods is booking at Southwark Playhouse until 26th March

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