27 February 2019 (released)
01 March 2019
The Vault’s festival is now in the sixth week of its seventh year of life. Down the graffiti tunnel beneath Waterloo station, there is a rumbling of over 400 shows from more than 2000 artists. Right on target with its young audience, 'Wood' is a new play about porn, sexism and patriarchy. Set in the present day and San Fernando Valley in 1983, the cast of four play themselves rehearsing a play about porn stars, John and Cynthia who are grappling with the power dynamics in their work and relationship. So with the real-lifel actors, acting themselves rehearsing a ‘period’ play about porn actors trying to make films, there’s plenty of room for humiliating hand-pumps as well as bold meta-theatrical comedy.
The rehearsal process is a co-operative nightmare as writer George sees his masterpiece being swept away by the three female actors who are keen to explore an entirely new direction for his protagonist. ‘My play is about toxic masculinity!’ he bleats whilst Nneka points out that as the only black actor, she’s really not comfortable playing all the bit parts and Claire raises an eyebrow at the inevitable moment of domestic violence between the porn stars. So eighties. (Incidentally it still got a gasp from someone in the audience.)
Although the narrative potential does not feel fully explored, there are some genuinely funny moments in 'Wood' with clear direction and strong performances all round. The cast bring to life the nightmare of trying to create something in a room full of sensitive millennial’s, who can say ‘What about our safe space?’ and ‘Who in this room is unhappy?!’ with a straight face. In the final denouement, the outpourings of a man desperate to survive in the non-binary, post #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, is deliciously sharp and funny.