Woman in the Dunes** (Theatre 503, 14 January 2014)

Posted: January 15, 2014 in Theatre

Adapted from a novel by the Japanese writer Abe Kobo, Micha Colombo’s play tells of an amateur entomologist who, in pursuit if his research into sand insects, becomes lured into a dune-dwelling community and entrapped to live as the partner of the title character. The logistics of this bizarre community’s existence do not stand up to close scrutiny, but, letting that pass, this is a story loaded with Orwellian political and social metaphors. It plays like a long (at least 30 minutes too long) episode of The Prisoner in which outrage at imprisonment is followed by thwarted escape attempts and then gradual acceptance. The predictability of the plot, plodding pace and dreary, humourless dialogue mean that this production possibly induces more yawns per minute than anything seen in London in recent times. Sandy coloured curtains and sandy tinted lighting provide a set that looks tacky, maybe appropriately so. Felix O’Brien plays the entomologist as a bumbling geek, Roslyn Paterson is the woman who has long since given up resistance and Niall Kerrigan is a villager who represents their rather benevolent captors. Sadly absent is any sexual chemistry between the central pair and, when the woman appears heavily pregnant towards the end of the play, the only possible explanation seems to be immaculate conception. Yet, despite all this fairly damming criticism, there remains something about the production that is quite endearing. Partly this is due to a trio of likeable actors who all seem to believe in what they are doing, accepting that at least one of the performances could have been mis-judged. Partly it is due to an affinity with quirky theatre which, even if it misfires, at least tries to do something different.

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