The River

Date 23rd January 2023
Society The Green Room Theatre, Wilmslow
Venue The Green Room Theatre, Wilmslow
Type of Production Play
Director Mike Rogerson
Written By Jez Butterworth

Report

Author: Steph Niland

The River by Jez Butterworth at The Green Room Theatre, Wilmslow, was tense, mysterious, and witty, with impeccable acting.

It is a hard one to discuss, particularly on one viewing. Is it an allegory? A gothic-style ghost story? A mystery? All performers in this play took on the characters beautifully, they were completely believable, the dialogue convincing and plausible in their voices, the execution nuanced and detailed. As the plot was so bizarre and, in a way, strangely sparse, they could only attack it the way they did and just play it for real.

The intimacy of this space worked brilliantly with this piece. The set was rustic and atmospheric, and the lighting effect used throughout with the river sounds added so much.

The direction, provided by the skilful Mike Rogerson, was spot on. Again, with this venue, there was audience on more than one side, and this was considered when dealing with the action – never feeling ever-moving or contrived but natural and the audience misses nothing. Mike also brought out the best in his actors by giving gravitas and stillness to certain moments and contrasting this with more frenzied sections. A lovely calibration of energies throughout. Well done.

Simon Darlington as The Man was natural, with just the right amount of ruggedness, but was also able to show us, almost concealed, the deep sadness, remorse and insecurity the character was layered with. Simon handled the banter style sections deftly and also carried well the more figurative, literary fragments of the script that Butterworth is known for. The monologue about catching his first fish was enchanting. It was given the right quantity of seriousness laced with pathos that maybe goes to explain this character…perhaps…always after that first buzz, chasing the one that got away, or chasing that feeling but allowing it to escape and always coming up disappointed in the end… who knows. It really is up for interpretation in a hundred different ways, but Simon’s rendition facilitates those ruminations – so congratulations.  

The Woman, played by Nicola Detheridge, was sharp and curious. Nicola played it so cleverly – she put across an intelligent, well-read and strong character but again, more complex hues shone through. She was a romantic and she was empathetic, and she was philosophical. A lovely, detailed performance and a naturalistic execution made The Woman very watchable and well rounded.

Mel Beswick completes the printed cast list as The Other Woman. Full of youthful exuberance and a flighty, risk- taking energy that is infectious. Again, another solid characterisation and strong delivery. Mel brought a mix of flirty minx and vulnerability to The Other Woman and the script sprang from her with great genuineness, spontaneity, and vitality. A delightful performance.

Special mention must go to Eilidh Pollard who composed and sang the most beautiful and haunting folk song (among other things!) which was played during the show. A melancholic melody that was a gorgeous facet to complement the piece.

A thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing evening. 80 minutes sitting on the edge of the seat thinking something is going to happen, the tension palpable. Well-established characters played so well and with clever direction. What a fabulous play. Congratulations to all involved.