Review: The Last Woodwose

The Last Woodwose - actors dressed up as the mythical creature of the woodwose in a forest

Last week I went along to a performance of The Last Woodwose at West Hill Barn in Brandeston.

The play was created by local theatre company, Wonderful Beast, which brings folk and fairy tales to life through dance, songs and stories. The Last Woodwose, written by Thea Smiley, follows on the same theme as Return of the Wildman that toured last year and was also based on a local yarn.

As Suffolk legend goes, woodwose protect the woodlands and forests of the area. These mythical creatures, covered in hair and brandishing clubs, were first talked about in medieval Europe.

The Last Woodwose illustration

Carvings of woodwose can be found in some of Suffolk’s churches, including Orford and Saxmundham. Mostly the woodwose were described as wild men of the forest, but sometimes there were depictions of female woodwose, and this is where we begin the play.

A pair of woodcutters are taking down trees in a woodland. As they eye up a particularly large and ancient tree, the last woodwose has had enough and decides to reveal herself to teach the pair a valuable lesson…

I won’t reveal too much of the plot for those that might see it at a later date (the current tour run has finished, but in case it’s shown anywhere else in the future). The story is one of magic and folklore, mixed with timely themes of environmentalism, race, gender roles and what it means to be human.

The Last Woodwose. Rosalind Burt (in foreground) ©Emma Close-Brooks
Rosalind Burt (in foreground) ©Emma Close-Brooks

The play comes to life with the help of music and song, played by an accompanist, as well as the actors themselves. The use of woodwind and string instruments brought to life the original era of these folklores and created a dreamlike atmosphere. The music punctuated parts of the story throughout and was an integral part of scene setting and changes in mood.

The cast were a group of three talented actors. All of them were terrific at their roles and it was very clever how two of the cast switched between embodying many different characters during the play, without ever making the plot seem confusing.

I found the play very moving at times as it delved into themes of love, loss and parenthood. I was swept up in the emotions of the characters and came away thinking about a number of topics that I didn’t expect too. I think that’s a sign of a great play – one that can provide escapism yet be thought-provoking and fun at the same time. The Last Woodwose ticked all those boxes for me!

Disclaimer: This was not a paid post. I was invited to see The Last Woodwose to review the play but did not receive payment for my blog post.
This is an account of what I experienced and I am not in any way responsible for what you experience. For my full disclaimer policy, 
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