Review: Pastoral, by Thomas Eccleshare, HighTide Festival,

"Pastoral" at HighTide Festival

"Pastoral" at HighTide Festival - Credit: Archant

Pastoral, by Thomas Eccleshare, HighTide Festival, The Cut, Halesworth, May 8

"Pastoral" at HighTide Festival

"Pastoral" at HighTide Festival - Credit: Archant

Nature is reclaiming the world. Trees and plants are bursting through the concrete and wild animals are rampant once more.

As the forest approaches and troops are brought in to try to stem what is, arguably, only a disaster for humans, Moll waits in her urban flat for one of her sons to take her on what she believes to be a holiday.

But Mother Nature is too strong and Moll finds herself trapped along with two sons and a family retreating from elsewhere - a couple with a brave eleven-year-old son bearing the mythic name of Arthur.

Eccleshare’s surreal drama may be a black comedy but it is also both frightening and sobering in similar degrees.

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For as the pressure mounts, the captives fight among themselves for scraps of food and, after an exhausted supermarket deliveryman makes it through (minus the shopping), he is attacked and butchered as the humans revert to a Lord of the Flies mentality..

Moll, played with quiet dignity by Anna Calder-Marshall, takes it all in her stride and in the final moments of the play she shares her last cigarette and dances with Arthur, her toy sword-carrying knight without shining armour, who is abandoned by his parents to enable them to escape.

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Arthur is played by Polly Frame and although she captures the boyish mannerisms of the character her lines – delivered repetitively in a sharp upward pattern – are sometimes inaudible and their sound always irritating.

While the director, Steve Marmion, cleverly and skilfully meets the huge challenge of staging this play - studded with special effects - there are weak spots, such as having the starving characters responding in an over-the-top pantomime style as they imagine various types of food.

Indeed, it is the special effects which will make this drama stick in the memory as floors collapse, a tree moves downstage and daffodils fall from the sky like darts and became embedded in the floor.

David Green

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