Seven Sisters Group
'The Forest' Preview
August 9, 2004 - Newlands Corner, Guildford
“Lost in a Forest…”
I think that’s how the lyrics to The Cure’s “A Forest” start anyway. Susanne Thomas’ latest work does not allude to that of Robert Smith’s at any point, but I think comparisons can be drawn between the two’s artistic sensibilities. Both employ a pedestrian pace, everyday situations, and objects turned slightly macabre, and create the effect of a kind of weaving and winding angst that never reaches a crisis, but never really goes away either.
When the flyer for ‘The Forest’ enticed me to watch something “mysterious, sensual and haunting” in tree-lined surroundings, I kind of got hold of the wrong end of the stick, if you pardon the pun, expecting something much more wood nymphs and fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden that what I actually got. The rather bald name of this venue-titled site-specific work leaves it open to this kind of misunderstanding; calling your work “The Theatre,” for example, would not be so evocative, I imagine. I think this ambiguity is intended so that audience members form his/her own preconceptions of what is forest-like and forest-related, in readiness to have these challenged.
The audience sets off in small groups along a woodland path marked by white objects, each armed only with a borrowed CD player containing the piece’s soundtrack as protection against whatever lies within. And this is all very much about what lies within on personal psychological terms. Whatever we come across, we see it at our own pace and from our own unique vantage point in the setting. This work plays on almost every forest-acious fear we may have accumulated and carried throughout our lives. There are many allusions to childhood games: children’s laughter plays on the soundtrack, dismembered dolls appear at the wayside along with sticks, tracks, strange signs, and wigwams. The performers play hide-and-seek games with the audience until they finally reveal themselves close at hand in small clearings to carry out their weird activities.
The print states that this work is for an “adult audience,” and they’re not joking. As adults, we can view the construction of the real or imaginary fear-related hang-ups that are acted out here with objectivity and occasionally detached amusement and/or bemusement, but more fragile minds might find this really quite disturbing. Showing times of the performances are earlier than previously advertised, so many will find the work lighter than they might have expected in a literal sense, but much darker in an emotional sense than the publicity would suggest.
To find out more about this weekend’s performances of "The Forest" and how to book, go to the News sub-page of the Seven Sisters Group website at www.sevensistersgroup.com
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