On Wednesday 13th May I went to see ‘Woman and Scarecrow’ at the Tobacco Factory Brewery Theatre. This show is part of the Directors’ Cuts season, showcasing recent graduates from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
The play is set in Ireland and centres on a character simply known as ‘The Woman’, played by Rosie Nicholls. The Woman is led in her bed on the stage as we take our seats, and her bed remains a central part of the play, in fact she never leaves it. We soon learn that it is her death bed, although we are never told what she is dying of. Her companion on the stage is Scarecrow played by Amy Barnes, a feathered guardian angel who only The Woman can see. Scarecrow has been with her throughout her life and now in her final moments promises to hand her over graciously to Death.
But is The Woman ready to graciously succumb to death? No, she is not ready to go just yet, there was so much else she wanted to do. This is a tale of missed opportunity and personal regret, The Woman has lived vicariously through her many children (they are Irish after all) and endured the long relationship with their adulterous Father played by Michael Harkin but at what cost? She has failed to acknowledge her own desires and need for happiness to her seemingly untimely end.
All the cast had worked hard on a very convincing Irish accent and they had a staccato, machine gun like delivery which got through the large amount of dialogue with ease. This did not make it hard to listen to though, the delivery and accents gave it an air of great authenticity, and drew me further into the plot and the setting. The staging was simple but very effective and great use was made of a canvas wardrobe, giving Narnia-like hints of the malevolent force of the ‘beyond’.
Every moment of every day we all make choices which must ultimately be lived with, the ramifications of which can echo down through our lives. This is a recurring theme throughout the play and the viewer is reminded to live a life worth remembering at the end, to find and embrace your own joie de vivre.
Sometimes the right play finds you at the right time. The recent loss of a friend my age, with kids the same age as mine made this play particularly poignant, appropriate and timely. Despite its somber subject matter, I left the theatre tonight feeling positive. Determined to try and be different from our central character, to embrace opportunities and live a life worth remembering. I was reminded of a line from Andy Dufresne in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Get busy living, or get busy dying. I plan to live.
Woman and Scarecrow is on at The Brewery Theatre until Saturday 16th May
Review by David Blake