Theatre Review





Against the Grain Theatre Company presents the European Premiere of

The Woodsman

by Steven Fechter

Director: Stuart Watson

Old Red Lion Theatre

7 April – 2 May 2009











A review by Peter Carrington for EXTRA! EXTRA!



When Steven Fechter wrote his play, The Woodsman in 1997 he must have realised that any production was going to face the same issues when performed.  The subject matter makes audience members uncomfortable and while the messages within The Woodsman are powerful there is always a danger that the audience will be unable to engage with them.  Thankfully Stuart Watson’s direction in this, the European Premiere of the play holds the audience in place and forces them to face the issues of crime, punishment and forgiveness.  

Richard Ings plays Walter, a man returning to his home town having spent twelve years in prison for molestation of a minor.  The play covers his therapy and how he attempts to be what he calls ‘normal’.  The intimate theatre means the acting is very close up, each awkward stance, glance and subtle movement can be scrutinised.  Richard Ings faces the audience for his soliloquies, looking beyond them, thus leaving the audience trapped in his head with him, unable to look away but unable to see what he sees.
The set, designed by Ben Sandford mimics Walters mind, from the clear outer surface, where he spends his waking hours, constantly examined (as Richard Ings is when facing the audience) drifting backward through hanging ropes, illustrating a forest, binding his memories in tight.  At the back of the stage, in the shadows is the door to his secrets and memories.  Only creatures of his mind pass through this door, all other characters enter in the light, through the plain door.

These characters are Walter’s few friends who all confess things to him, whether he asks them to or not.  John Samuel Worsey is a memorable caricature as Lucas, the bullying cop, but the part demands that he be as unpleasant as possible.  Other characters such as Rosen and Nikki (played by Dominic Coddington and Lisa Came) never seem to get off the ground however, seemingly representing only the possibility of hope rather than the reality.  The bright star of the play is Emma Pollard as Robin, expressing innocence and joy but also the striking maturity of her character.  It is Robin who offers the chance of redemption, the choice between Wolf and Woodsman.  Within this production the moments with the two of them are the ones that strike hardest into the audience.  The messages are subtly played within the small theatre, where the audience has been bound to this fate by the direction and close-up acting.

The Woodsman is a difficult play to stage therefore, but Against the Grain do all they can to bring the audience in and make them face these issues.



The Woodsman was first performed in New York at the Actors Studio Free Theater in 2000


Box Office 020 7837 7816

Tue-Sat 7.30pm, Sunday 6pm


90 minutes with 15 minute interval


Old Red Lion

418 St. John Street

London EC1V 4NJ


Tickets: £13 (£10 concessions)







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