Pros: It’s rare to come across such beautiful and thrilling storytelling these days.
Cons: Some aspects of the story could have been explored in more detail, or perhaps left out?
A small dark house sits on the edge of a moor. In the daylight it’s a beautiful place to be. At night, every shadow is a threat, and the peat hides unknown mysteries. This is the setting of The Moor, a dark physiological thriller directed by Blythe Stewart and written by Catherine Lucie. Like the changing scenery the plot twists and turns, opening up fantastical possibilities that never get quite resolved.
Bronagh (Jill McAusland) is a young mother, stuck in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Graeme (a terrifyingly convincing Oliver Britten) and suffering from post-natal depression. Bronagh and Graeme live on the little dark house on the moor, a house that Bronagh calls a “coffin” and which emanates a sense of tense claustrophobia. After a boozy party one night they start arguing – Graeme is jealous and convinced that she went home early to be with another man; Bronagh says she was tired and wanted to relieve the babysitter. Then they discover that a young man is missing from the village, possibly murdered, and Bronagh’s – accusation? conviction? – that Graeme was involved leads a terrible end for them both.
The plot centres around the question of memory: how much can we actually trust them to be true, and how many memories are simply stories that we and others have told ourselves again and again? When Bronagh believes Graeme to have murdered the young man, how much of her story affects Graeme’s understanding of how he acted? And what if it was all a dream or a fantasy, spurred on by alcohol? Or what – disturbingly – if Bronagh thought her story to be the only way out of their abusive relationship?
The acting is superb throughout. Jill McAusland plays a multi-layered Bronagh – at times scared, conniving, and confused – with aplomb, and Oliver Britten’s performance as a vicious but ultimately miserable boyfriend and father is so convincing that being in the same space as him felt quite uncomfortable. Jonny Magnanti is strong as the policeman Pat, whose fatherly relationship with Bronagh, tainted by his own personal and professional interests, could have been explored in more detail.
Holly Piggott’s excellent set design – a collection of corrugated plastic panels representing the dark, shifting moor, and Anna Clock’s music and sound round off the eerie atmosphere. It’s not a play to be missed.