Review: The Moor, The Old Red Lion Theatre

‘The Moor is different in the morning, than at night’

Written by Catherine Lucie, The Moor is about a young mother Bronagh (Jill Mcausland) who searches for freedom within her life. She longs to have her own voice, to break free from the repressive boundaries that surround her. Her husband Graeme (Oliver Britten) is an alcoholic. A capricious man, he possessively watches his girlfriend’s every move. One night, Bronagh decides to go home alone after a party at the pub. When she falls asleep, she has a dream that dictates her future decisions.

As we enter the theatre we observe a scene of airless clutter. In a dark, musty room, Bronagh lies fast asleep. Blankets and toys fill the room, children’s picture cards are scattered all across the floor, and an old TV is supported above a haphazard pile of dusty old books. Already there this feeling of heightened claustrophobia, as though the walls are about to collapse from both sides.

When she wakes from her dream, she is convinced she witnessed a crime. A young man has gone missing on the moor; she is sure she met him earlier at the pub but who else was there? Did Graeme see her with this man? When Bronagh gives a testimony to the police officer (Jonny Magnanti), it is evident she is struggling to differentiate between what was her dream and what is reality. Sliding images blur on top of each other, the narrative shifts and hazed memories begin to crumble and break.

Mcausland brings a moving performance and truly reveals Bronagh’s complex character. Often with watery eyes, there is an element of vulnerability about her; though she will not be broken. When everyone questions the authenticity of her account, she openly speaks to us. We become her confidantes. At the same time I wanted to see what was beyond the surface of Graeme’s character. Britten brings this powerful image of physical strength and anger, however we never understand the reasons for these sudden outbursts. Nor how he truly felt towards Bronagh.

A stunning set is designed by Holly Pigott. The back of the stage is transformed by a drawing of the moor, creating an effective depth of field. Thick brushworks are painted on multiple perspex panels that rotate and swivel. The use of moving panels allow the actors to rapidly reconfigure the space, divide the stage, create hidden passages and craft new settings.

Lucie’s writing suddenly transports the audience away from the dark psychology of the murder investigation. These moments are exquisite. She takes our attention to a series of poetic passages that are recited by Mcausland about the changing landscape on the moor. Snow arrives, bringing a crisp air and a blanket of white along the horizon. Though on the moor, we are told, the snow never stays long. All too quickly the rain and mud arrive and the boggy marshes return swallowing the light. It is an elegy of Bronagh’s fears; just like nature, our behaviour can be unpredictable and deceptive. Nothing is ever constant.

This is a compelling piece about the search for independence, trust in others and faith in one’s own premonition. Have we been taken on a story that is a fantasy of her imagination; a portrait she wishes to paint? Or is the final verdict a fabrication? Even as the piece comes to a definitive close, we seem to be holding the pen in order to make our final judgement.

The Moor is playing at The Red Lion Theatre until 3rd March. For more information and tickets, see www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/shows.

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