From the moment her performance starts, Sophie Kean vividly conveys the bright and erudite character of young scientist Juliane Koepke. At a lively pace, she invites the audience into a world of monkeys and exotic birds, combining elements of the natural world with those of the air disaster that would transform her life. This is a cleverly written and excellently researched piece; captivating from the get-go.
At centre stage we have a row of plane seats; I commend whoever was able to source these! However, there is more than first meets the eye, as countless props including figurines, puppets, and paper maggots are revealed to be hiding in this apparently simple staging. These tiny incarnations of Juliane give a sense of the scale of the forest, adding a beautiful sense of depth. A particularly lovely touch is the use of origami to convey the fragility of life in this situation – props that can be torn apart and thrown around. Lighting is kept straightforward and effective with overhead hues of red, green, and blue shifting to match the mood.
Kean’s use of the space is delightfully imaginative, creating remarkable tension and a sense of long-distance travel. Her movements span the spectrum from realism to abstraction, and her ability to deliver such a densely wordy script is impressive. A highlight is the repetition of “it was the rain that woke me”, as poor Juliane is forced to relive the trauma of waking up in the depths of the rainforest. This performance is highly engaging in pace and does an excellent job of building tension upon tension.
Emma Howlett has crafted a powerful and true-to-life script; fine details of the story – from the animals in the rainforest to the airline Juliane flew on – are woven into the narrative. It is great to see the care and attention that has gone into devising this play, particularly the tribute paid at the end to those who were not so fortunate as to survive the crash. Juliane’s mother in particular is built into a multifaceted figure, with emphasis placed on her scientific prowess and the impact of her loss on Juliane.
Her Green Hell is an impressive piece of work, poignant and impactful in its execution. This is a brilliant true story and a commendable amount of information to squeeze into 60 minutes, layered on top of creative physical theatre. It is both a highly intelligent and emotional production that leaves audiences with much to reflect on.
Created by: Emma Howlett
Dramaturgy by: Sophie Kean
Lighting Design by: Edward Saunders
Sound Design by: Sarah Spencer
Set Design by: Eleanor Wintour
Produced by: Theatre Goose
Her Green Hell played as part of VAULT Festival 2023 and has completed its current run. You can follow Theatre Goose on Twitter here for any future dates.