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The River
The River

Arena Theatre presents Jez Butterworth's

The River

Directed by Hayley Tucker with permission from Nick Hern Books

A remote cabin on the cliffs, a man and a woman, and a moonless night. The River is the bewitching new play by Jez Butterworth. It premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in October 2012.

  • Performance Dates
  • There are no scheduled performances of this production.
Blog Updates
Paul Nelson - Audition Notice      31/10/2013

The River Audition Notice Read through will be Tuesday 3 December Audition will be Tuesday 10 December Both events will take place at Pokesdown Primary School, starting at 7.30pm

John Newth - Scene One

THE author of plays like ‘Mojo’ and ‘Jerusalem’, Jez Butterworth is one of our outstanding contemporary playwrights. His plays are always thought-provoking, sometimes difficult to deconstruct, but very rarely dull. ‘The River’ is no exception. The author claims that he ‘just wanted to write a play about fishing’, but that is disingenuous. Ostensibly it is about a character called just ‘The Man’, who has brought a girl (‘The Woman’) to a cabin above a river, not just for the obvious reason but to see whether she will share his passion for fishing. The surprise come at the start of the second scene, which appears to follow naturally from the first until his companion enters and is someone quite different (‘The Other Woman’). From there the two women play alternate scenes, and the play’s dynamism comes from the contrast between them and from the mystery of their interchangeability. The Man is onstage for the whole play and at first he is a rather one-dimensional figure, as all obsessives are; a surprising sensitivity to the poetry of Ted Hughes is only because of Hughes’s poem about a river, ‘After Moonless Midnight’. But as the play progresses, the character becomes more subtly nuanced and – although many of the critics of the professional production hedged their bets when speculating what the play was about – one of the themes is that the display of different aspects of a man’s personality is dictated by the character of the woman he is with. Men don’t come well out of the play and The Man, initially the epitome of rugged virility, is ultimately a pathetic figure. To convey all this demands an exceptional performance by the actor playing The Man, and Ryan Gregg provides it. The Woman is more thoughtful than The Other Woman but also more submissive, and is accordingly dominated by The Man. There is the danger of submissive being a synonym for colourless and sometimes Polly Ashness’s interpretation falls into this trap; also, there is the occasional confusion between naturalistic acting and sloppy diction. But she does create the character with whom the audience empathises most strongly: you feel that she could be right for The Man and sort him out if only she would stand up to him a little more. By contrast, The Other Woman is flighty and self-assured and The Man handles her much more warily. Clare Rhodes makes the most of what is the meatier of the two female roles: she is convincingly stupid and giggly while on a high after a spliff, and she provides the funniest moment in the play, when The Man is scandalised by her having caught a magnificent sea trout not with one of the classic flies but with a pickled onion Monster Munch. She is responsible for much of the play’s erotic undercurrent – the parallels between sex and the excitement of catching a fish are implied more than once – but she is also extremely effective in almost her final speech, a surprising outpouring of disillusionment that strips The Man of any romantic self-belief as effectively as an acid bath. ‘The River’ plays at the Little Theatre again on Thursday 17th, at the Mowlem, Swanage, on Saturday 26th, and at the Camden Bar in Pooleon Wednesday 30th. It is well worth catching, but be prepared to be both puzzled and stimulated.
Lyn Richell

DORSET THEATRE REVIEWS   THE RIVER – ARENA THEATRE – Jameson Road, Bournemouth – 15.4.14   Jez Butterworth wrote The River and what an intriguing play it is. Only at the last moment do we, the audience, think we know what is going on.   On the first night the audience was small but appreciative and I do hope this will improve with the next productions because believe me you will be devastated if you miss this, as it is of the highest order both with direction (Hayley Tucker) and cast (Ryan Gregg, Polly Ashness, Clare Rhodes and a brief appearance by Bethany Harris).   I was completely ‘hooked’ from the moment it started until the final curtain.   The set was simple but effective and as for the cooking on stage, well what can I say except that it made me feel very hungry. It is not an easy thing to do but Ryan Gregg handled it as though it was the most natural thing in the world.   The lighting and sound enhanced the atmosphere to perfection.   This was not like watching actors perform a play but I felt that these were people living their parts. All three of the main performers were superb and I could not place one performance above another except maybe Ryan Gregg who was on stage from start to finish. I never once felt concerned about any aspect of his performance. Polly Ashness and Clare Rhodes were so natural that I almost forgot I was watching a play.   There are two more performances and trust me you do not want to miss them. They are on Thursday 17th April at 8pm at Bournemouth Little Theatre, Jameson Road and The Mowlem Theatre, Swanage on Saturday 26th April at 8pm.
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