Dress for strong currents and wade into The River

George Stagnell and Claire Morley in The River, photo by Michael J Oakes

George Stagnell and Claire Morley in The River, photo by Michael J Oakes

Director Andy Love of Wildgoose Theatre continues his vein of delivering hitherto unseen plays to York with this sumptuous psychological drama by Jez Butterworth, set in a log cabin near a river, somewhere in modern England. The specifics of their surroundings are white noise, while the minutia of the dialogue is honed to a piercing point. Poetry and illustrious speeches furnish what appears to be a confident, if burgeoning, dynamic between The Man (George Stagnell) and The Woman (Claire Morley). These are people at home with each other, themselves and the outdoors.

The handsome set – designed and built by Love himself – is perfect in every corner, every detail; a fitting staging ground for The Man’s enactments of creation and recreation, his attempts at ownership and control.

“All I will do to anyone else, forever, from this moment forward, anyone who isn’t you, is lie. I have no choice.”

There is a refreshing sense of independence and shared hunger for in-the-moment experience, gratification from simple pleasures. The appearance of The Other Woman (Anna Rogers) adds to a map of unsettling affluents leading to a mysterious pool surrounding the psyche and behaviour of The Man. Stagnell evokes Antony Perkins and Robert Walker; sublimely manipulative in his pursuit of his perfect narrative. Morley’s Woman is coy, pliant, an open book for The Man to write in (or so he believes), while Rogers is elusive, unattainable, a transient presence with a non-committal heart.

“You have to be as fearless and as honest as the thing you just saw happen… Because that’s who you’re dealing with.”

The finest play to grace York stages in many years, The River will call you in and shake you to your core. It is a swooning autopsy of adult passion and longing, a desperate clutching at a one true love to comfort those plagued by changing tides.

Catch this tidy 80-minute one-act play at Friargate Theatre, York at 3pm & 7:30pm today or 3pm tomorrow. Tickets available here.
The River flows on to Seven Arts, Leeds on 3rd May at 7.30pm; tickets available here.
Suitable for ages 14+.

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