The River

Jez Butterworth’s eerie and enigmatic 2009 play is set in a remote log cabin high above a river where, on a dark, moonless night, a somewhat obsessive man has invited his latest girlfriend along to share in his passion for trout fishing. Although no time span is given, it quickly becomes obvious that we may be observing events that have taken place over at least a couple of years, as the woman who leaves at the end of one scene is invariably not the same person who enters in the next.

This is Raven Arts’ debut production and the company’s ethos is ‘to not only entertain, but challenge the preconceptions of local amateur theatre by producing passionate, gripping, exciting and intimate work of a professional standard’. There are, in fact, a small number of local groups who already do precisely this, and Raven Arts is a welcome addition to their numbers.

With this production, director Dean Rawson and his team have set the barrier high in every way, not least with a superb representation of a log cabin complete with sink, worktop, cooker and a myriad of excellent props to set the scene. This is complemented by superb mood lighting and a specially written score by musical director Jennifer Houston, heard to great effect during Yeats’ poem ‘The song of wandering Aengus’, which features in the script, and well sung by all concerned.

The cast is led by Liam Wakeford as The Man, proving that he not only acts superbly but is a dab hand at gutting fish – yes, a real one, in case you were wondering. I sat in the front row and could see every last gory detail. Apart from that particular skill, he has that mesmerising quality that forces his audience to watch him intently, and he uses his entire body to display his emotions, to great effect.

Both Rhiannon Horne (The Woman) and Sarah Rustici (The Other Woman) also hugely impress with their characterisations. The Woman’s rather more serious character – she is avidly reading Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse – contrasts brilliantly with The Other Woman’s flightiness, both of them bringing out differing aspects of The Man’s personality.

I find myself now with a slight dilemma regarding something I have, or have not, mentioned, so please be assured that I have taken my cue from the programme and not had a lapse of memory.

This is most certainly a thought-provoking play, and the audience is left to draw its own conclusions as to what it is really saying, as nothing is actually spelled out. Maybe I came to the right conclusion, maybe I didn’t, but I do know that this production is one that is definitely worth seeing.

Further performances: 20-22 October at 7.30 pm.