Pros: Drawing on some thought-provoking metaphors about the world that we live in, this production has an interesting story to tell.
Cons: The play is very long and doesn’t offer enough opportunity to get attached to the characters. The theme is quite depressing: prepare to leave the theatre overwhelmed by misery about the state of society.
Based on Abe Kobo’s novel of the same name, Micha Colombo’s play tells the story of an insect collector. Having missed his bus he finds himself stranded, but is welcomed kindly into a local’s home for the night. Mysteriously, she won’t answer his questions about her life and spends the entire evening inexplicably digging away sand from the walls of her house. The following day, he discovers he is forever trapped in this deep sand pit she calls home, and is expected to live as the title character’s partner from there on. The audience is taken into the odd, isolated world where the two protagonists are trapped in their monotonous lives of mindless labour. The story becomes increasingly depressing when the collector, who has unbeknownst to him been pronounced dead by his loved ones, gets used to his new life, and even begins to enjoy it.
Leaving Theatre503 after the production, which in my opinion was too long, I was struck by a feeling of misery and pointlessness. This play makes a statement about the condition of modern civilisation through political and social metaphors similar to those used by Kafka or Orwell. It leaves you with an overwhelming sensation that it doesn’t matter what path you choose to walk in life, because it all leads to failure anyway. We might as well spend our lives digging pits in the sand, trapped by those in charge who wield all the power.
This is, of course, an interesting message to try and get across, as has been done in many other books, plays and films before. Unfortunately, the way in which this theme is portrayed in this production feels like it still needs some work. The dialogue doesn’t always flow naturally and parts of it are rushed. A bit of editing would make the show more manageable, and also give the audience the chance to have some kind of attachment to the characters as well as the ability to see the bigger picture.
On the plus side, Colombo has used some interesting devices to create an eerie, claustrophobic feeling. The small stage was also used well. There was no actual pit where the characters lived, so the front of the stage is used effectively to create the drop down to the house. Last but not least, actors Roslyn Paterson and Felix O’Brien are excellent when it comes to physical theatre, and I do think that both of them have the potential to be brilliant.
Overall, the length of the play, lack of an interval, and the less than comfortable seats make that this is not a production for the fainthearted. Some editing and perhaps a bit of a rethink as to how to get the story across would make it more accessible. For now though, this is a production I would recommend if you are a big fan of Kafka, Orwell or indeed Kobo and the previous film adaption of his novel.
Original author: Abe Kobo
Adapted by: Micha Colombo
Director: Micha Colombo
Box Office: 020 7978 7040
Booking Link: http://theatre503.com/whats-on/woman-in-the-dunes/
Booking Until: 18th January 2014