Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Enter the Woods - Edinburgh Fringe review

Written by: Wendy (@Wendyfer1)

TheSpace @ Venue 45, Edinburgh

Flying High Theatre Company, a Youth Theatre organisation from Nottingham, aims to educate and assist aspiring performers up to the age of nineteen taking GCSEs, A Levels or other qualifications in Dance or Drama. Enter The Woods, only one of their endeavours at the fringe this year, is described as an exploration of the ‘darker side of stories and real-life happenings’.

Although my first impression from the fringe guide was that the piece was site-specific, I eventually realised it was taking place indoors - a mild disappointment, but my mistake. Unfortunately, the performance itself was a greater disappointment. The structure of the piece made it appear amateur. The naturalistic dialogue, fantastical story-telling, abstract ensemble work, physical theatre and occasional choral singing did not blend well: it was clunky and the seams were clearly visible between the separate stories. Nevertheless, a few of the dancers showed promising grace.

Aside from faults with form and style, there are some serious issues with the content that need to be addressed. I suspect one section of the performance was heavily inspired by the film A Company of Wolves, but if so the story was misunderstood. The subject is a girl’s sexual awakening, yes, but that does not come about through attempted rape. In Enter The Woods, a girl is assaulted by a crazed wolf-man, another of which then "saves" her. This second wolf then immediately manipulates her into having sex with him instead, something she accepts with enthusiasm. Somehow, she doesn’t even appear to be traumatized. Unless I’m very much mistaken, there is even a cheap "what big… er… ears you have" joke thrown in.

My problem with this is very simple: victims of sexual assault do not recover quickly. It can take years, not 3 seconds. In a later scene, while a random pair of psychotic sadists torture some animals for funsies, the wolves declare themselves ‘civilised’ in comparison; odd, because I don’t consider rapists to be civilised.

The use of sexual assault as a plot device in this production was insensitive, irresponsible and unnecessary. If a show contains scenes of sexual violence there should always be a warning and in this case there was none. I should clarify that I am not advocating censorship, merely sensitivity and awareness of who might be in your audience. You wouldn’t take a shell-shocked soldier to see Explosion the Musical.

I do not want to discourage the people involved from continuing to make theatre, but I hope they will continue with acknowledgement of the responsibility that comes with tackling serious themes: the responsibility to educate yourself, analyse thoroughly, justify and empathize. 

This production has finished its run. 

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Anonymous said...

It appears the reviewer has totally misunderstood the play. The Wolf seduction scene was derived from the poem Little Red Cap which shows a dark interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. The sex between her and the final wolf is also consensual and therefore not rape.

Wendy said...

Thankyou for your response, criticism is always appreciated.

The connection with this poem was not something I was aware of, I apologise for associating the piece with the wrong thing. However, A Company of Wolves is also a dark interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood focused around a girl’s sexual awakening and the myths or lies she has been told by society because of her gender. There is a very strong connection between the film and that scene which you should view as an enhancement to the piece.

I am aware that the sex between the girl and the second wolf is consensual. I was not trying to claim it was rape, despite the fact that it seemed manipulative. My issue was with the fact that the girl happily agreed to consensual sex with the second wolf mere seconds after another had attempted to rape her. This shows or at least implies a lack of knowledge about the effect attempted rape can have on a person. It was insensitive and irresponsible.