I am very rarely this upfront regarding a production but if I had realised that Adam Foster’s Wood was not just a play about masculinity in the 1980s US porn industry but a meta look at toxic masculinity with fourth wall breaking I probably wouldn’t have gone.
When you realise that this a play about the rehearsal process and the role minorities play or don’t play in the industry it seems a bit of a turn-off as if the play they prepared wasn’t actually good enough to be performed but they had booked and paid for space. When I told my partner about this play he exclaimed “Oh **** off” and I don’t blame him, it sounds like the student fringe productions I usually have no issue with saying no to.
At the end of this show I was won over, yes it still felt like a response to a show that wasn’t finished or ready but it was a funny and often painful glimpse into the roles women find themselves. Wood begins as a tale about John, who after failing to get it up sees his career in porn finished. The porn film scenes are done very well, with George Fletcher’s ingenious use of a balloon pump.
It quickly becomes a project of concern as Nneka Okoye, the only actor of colour on stage, questioning the roles she has been given; porn actress and waitress, which have no impact of the main story of John and Cynthia (Claire Cartwright). Why cannot she play John as man? Phillipa Hogg gets to play the male porn director. Fletcher is soon put out as his role is taken away from him and the toxic masculinity that plagued John now plagues George.
The plays ask some questions; what happens when women dominate a rehearsal process and why there is such hostility to gender/colour blind casting but I still feel cheated that I didn’t get a full play about John. I care about the issues, I am not sure I care about these actors approach to them. I am here to see acting, not personal doubt. When the actors act they are great but it can feel rather preachy and I am not this show is the best place to have this conversation but it is a good starting point.
Wood is on until 3 March https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/wood/