Reviewed – 22nd February 2019
“Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher have written a very good play. If they were to pare down the problems a bit they could turn it into an excellent one”
A line from the show’s publicity is a good introduction to this play. “A funny, heartbreaking adventure through forests, friendship and Femfresh that reveals the loneliness of age and the power of Mother Nature.”
Willow works as a pharmacist, patiently listening to people’s problems and trying to help. Liz, an elderly customer, doesn’t think Willow looks like a pharmacist – she is a young black woman and doesn’t fit the stereotype. But Liz doesn’t fit the old lady stereotype either. She is feisty and funny, keeping her husband in the utility room, walking in the woods smoking and swearing. She is also very good at putting her foot in it. These two very different women talk to the audience and to each other, stripping off the defensive layers they have built up to protect themselves. In the process they discover a shared love for trees. Willow is writing an article and a book about the Wood Wide Web, the underground network of mycorrhizal fungi that link trees underground, allowing them to communicate and share resources. But something in her past makes her afraid in the woods. When Liz persuades her to join a protest against the destruction of the trees to make way for a new superstore, Willow is forced to revisit a terrible memory and to begin the healing process.
Tanya Loretta Dee is funny and moving as Willow; unravelling from the patient pharmacist, with a wry and sometimes hilarious take on her customer’s inability to speak about body parts, to a damaged and vulnerable woman. Nadia Papachronopoulou’s direction and Quang Kien Van’s movement direction give her some nicely stylised physical tropes.
Amanda Boxer’s Liz is engaging, surprising the audience with her quirky eccentricities and swearing. The bad times in her past are revealed straight to the audience without her ever giving way to sympathy seeking. She is very funny, but there is a double layer in the comedy, as humour is a good deflector of sadness.
Papachronopoulou makes good use of Lia Waber’s outstanding set in her direction and allows the two characters to combine naturalism with just the right amount of stylisation. Jack Weir’s lighting design and Chris Drohan’s sound help to tell the story with some lovely atmospheric touches.
Although Boots is a strong production, it does feel as though too many problems have been crammed into the fabric of the play. An hour and fifteen minutes is not really long enough to carry a narrative that includes a dead baby, postnatal depression, racism, ageism, infertility, loneliness, rape, the destruction of nature, incontinence and other ageing related issues. Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher have written a very good play. If they were to pare down the problems a bit they could turn it into an excellent one.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Tim Kelly
The Bunker until 16th March
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