I'm a fan of Neil LaBute's but for many people the excitement over the premiere production of In a Forest, Dark and Deep has come from the casting. The two-hander features one of the stars of a well-loved American ensemble sci-fi show that's now ended - yes, Olivia Williams from Dollhouse. What? I didn't say it was well-loved by a particularly large amount of people. Anyway it's also got Matthew Fox in it. They play brother and sister and as well as any metaphorical forests the evening might explore the action also takes place in a literal one - Soutra Gilmour's set is a triangular, two-storey lakeside cabin in the woods, belonging to college lecturer Betty (Williams.) The student who was renting it has left abruptly and she's asked her carpenter brother Bobby (Fox) to help clear out his belongings before prospective new tenants arrive the next morning.
LaBute is here looking at sibling relationships and how much baggage they carry; their difference in social standing is a jumping-off point for them to bicker at each other but soon it's clear these are just the arguments they've been having all their lives. Fox's blue-collar worker inevitably ends up demonstrating some pretty unpleasant views and violent tendencies but Williams' erudite academic is no angel either, the play essentially being a mystery as it's clear from the start that Betty is lying about something that's happened in this cabin. It's not the playwright's best or most hard-hitting work but it's dark enough given it's in the West End (what's not to enjoy about seeing Lost fans' reaction to Fox saying "cunt" repeatedly?) and it's a satisfying piece of work. The actors have great chemistry which is pretty crucial in a two-hander and Gilmour, with lighting designer Mark Henderson, has created a cabin which goes from cosy-looking to creepy instantly with the frequent power outages (the action takes place, of course, on a dark and stormy night.) Plus, well done to the cast and LaBute (also directing) for stringing out putting three shelves' worth of books into boxes over 100 minutes without making you constantly aware that they're stalling.
In a Forest, Dark and Deep by Neil LaBute is booking until the 4th of June at the Vaudeville Theatre.