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This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/woman-in-the-dunes-theatre-503-london/

An entomologist at a seaside sand dunes misses the bus and a local offers a night of lodging with a widow who lives in a shack at the bottom of a sand pit. In the morning, the man finds the only access to the outside world withdrawn and becomes trapped with the woman and a life of long hours of daily digging in order to hold back the ceaselessly shifting and encroaching sand. The story follows his efforts to negotiate his release and attempts at escaping until the inevitable conclusion. Adapted from the 1962 novel by Abe Kobo, the story is a beautiful metaphor for the futility and daily rituals of modern life.

The writing and direction by Micha Colombo leaves ample room for development. The man may not be the most socially adept character but the dialogue paints him as unbearably naive and slow on the uptake. His realisation and acceptance of his predicament is inevitable and obvious from an early stage but that section of the play is prolonged for dramatic suspense and is maddening. There is a shared helplessness and frustration between him and the audience but not in a theatrically satisfying manner. This section of the play can benefit from an edit and a trim.

From a direction point of view, some of the flow and rhythm of the dialogue also requires more work. In certain passages, the man questions the woman incessantly about his situation while giving no pause for her to answer. Not that she was going to answer him but a little pause would at least give plausibility to the scene. These deficiencies detract and undermine the message and deeper commentary the work has to offer about modern life. More effective is the short choreographed section representing the daily dig. This will be a much improved production if such devices can be extended to other sections of the play.

Felix O’Brien successfully plays the man as completely devoid of charm, but it is difficult to judge whether it is because of great acting or otherwise. Whereas Roslyn Paterson is the anchor of the production playing the woman with restraint and dignity. Paterson’s effort exemplifies the pragmatism of the lives of the people living in the sand village. In some ways, her character’s understanding and good temperament compared with his behaviour makes it an even more implausible and far fetched scenario than it already is.

This is a production of great contrast but with much potential. If the few shortcomings can be improved, this will be an interesting adaptation and a worthy story to tell.

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