|Photo credit - Jack Offord|
Bristol Old Vic’s subterranean Studio space has been overtaken by it’s Young Company and transformed into a peaty woodland kingdom. Less a paradise than a waking nightmare, this reinterpretation of Ted Hughes’ 1967 poem Wodwo breathes new life into the age-old angst of being afraid of the dark.
The poem for Hughes marked a departure in his signature style – moving away from formal constraints and into a more fluid exploration of mythology. Which makes it a fitting choice for the Young Company to develop Wodwo when they also break away from their previous, more traditional theatre style. And what better time to make a bold statement than on their twentieth anniversary?
Performed in the round, Wodwo sets the scene with a raised bed of soil as the stage floor, an overhanging canopy of litter as the forest roof, and neon light tubes planted in the forest floor. As always with the Old Vic, nothing is what is seems.
A girl is wandering the forest searching for her father, and on her journey she encounters all kinds of creatures – frogs, bees, wolves and many more that are less easy to identify! The malleable cast transform into these beings through an array of neon sports clothing, bright lights and well placed Adidas for ears as they crouch, creep and pounce through the scenery. The neon light tubes become essential props, most effectively to create a mini wind tunnel as the drama heightens to become a storm.
The plot itself is sometimes rather hard to follow, consisting of scant speech, many made up words and sounds and a lot of physical performance, but the effect is no less impressive for it. Coming in at a tight 50 minutes, Wodwo is a whirlwind of a show that explores issues surrounding loss, identity and approval, and is a brave and interesting departure for the Young Company.