Churchill's drama is an unflinching look at lives as bleak as the East
Anglian landscape in which they're set, poor farmworkers for whom
happiness is imaginable and even very briefly attainable but peace and
contentment are far beyond reach.
play built largely on the research and improvisations of the original
1983 cast, a woman abuses her stepdaughter because she fears that if
she is not a Wicked Stepmother she will have no identity at all. Little
girls playing When I Grow Up can imagine nothing beyond housewife and
convinced by a multinational corporation - through logic that I suspect
Churchill means us not to be able to follow - that the best way for him
to keep his farm is to sell it to them.
at the play's
centre an unhappy woman abandons her children for the man she loves,
leaves him because she can't bear to be away from them, and then
searches frantically for some third path.
workers pick potatoes in freezing weather, grumble about their boss and
half-recognise that their lives are essentially no different from their
ancestors going back centuries, an awareness Churchill makes palpable
by bringing ghosts of the immediate and distant past onstage.
a cast of six
doubling and redoubling roles and a design by James Button that puts us
right in the dirt and mists of the Fens, Ria Parry's production
captures both the bleakness and the barely-glimpsed flashes of light
that make up this evocatively recreated world.
as the straying mother and Alex Beckett as her lover and several
contrasting characters lead a uniformly strong cast that also includes
Elicia Daly, Nicola Harrison, Wendy Nottingham and Rosie Thomson.
this revival of Fen is engrossing, convincing, occasionally darkly
comic, and likely to linger in your emotional memory.
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- Fen - Finborough 2011