HAMPSTEAD DOWNSTAIRS/CELIA ATKIN PRESENT
By KELLIE SMITH
Directed by ANNA LEDWICH
Running time: 2 HOURS 15 MINUTES WITH AN INTERVAL
We can do better – can’t we?
21 Mar - 27 Apr 2019
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
★★★★ 'Finely crafted new writing' The Stage
★★★★ ‘Strong performances and snappy lines make this drama sing’ The Arts Desk
Having both been deeply scarred by their own parents’ separations, Joe and Anne never imagined they’d find themselves, years later, in the same position. Determined to place the interests of their son Alistair at the centre of their lives apart, they split with the firm objective of maintaining amicable relations at all costs. But a sudden change in circumstance triggers a chain of events that pushes their best intentions to the limit… Before they know it, they are both teetering dangerously close to the edge of an abyss.
Kellie Smith’s breakthrough play is a searing exploration of unconditional love and of the personal sacrifices it demands.
Anna Ledwich returns to direct following sell-out hits Dry Powder and Labyrinth (both Main Stage), Acceptance and Olivier Award nominated Four Minutes Twelve Seconds (both Downstairs).
'They’ve assured their son that they love him more than anything else and that they’ll always put him first; that it’ll be better for mum and dad to live in separate homes. But Joe and Anne’s amicable front doesn’t hold for long in Kellie Smith’s play, as battle lines are drawn and an acrimonious war for custody begins.'
'Both parents act out of genuine love for Alistair, but Smith is great at showing how years of resentment tighten into an unyielding knot of the heart. The writing is bolstered by two full-blooded central performances by Natalie Klamar and Finlay Robertson – restless and wild-eyed, Klamar’s Anne is powered by a maternal instinct that overrides everything else; Robertson’s Joe appears genial at first, but gradually shows layers of calcified rage and guilt that manifest in ugly ways.'
'In Anna Ledwich’s production, the audience stands in for their son, who never appears on stage. It’s a simple but expressive device that makes clear the extent to which Joe and Anne act out of self-interest.'
'The actors drift through Lucy Sierra’s set – a dilapidated, dream-like interior, insulation fibre poking out of knocked-through walls with peeling skin. Matt Haskins’ lighting floats through gaps, holes and windows, giving texture to empty space. It suggests the damage done by Joe and Anne’s actions, but also the passage of time, the tenacity of love, and the possibility of forgiveness.'
Ben Kulvichit, 5 April, 2019
The Arts Desk
'“We don’t love you any less.” A natural sentiment to express to your child when you’re separating from your partner, but the very fact of saying it plants doubts in the child’s mind as to whether you really mean it. As the audience of Wilderness at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, a new play written by Kellie Smith and directed by Hampstead regular Anna Ledwich, we feel Alistair’s doubts and fears keenly – mostly because we are him.'
'The story treads familiar territory as parents Joe (Finlay Robertson) and Anne (Natalie Klamar) try to stay amicable for Alistair’s sake, and inevitably collapse into resentment and pettiness. It doesn’t help that Joe has a new partner, Steph (Allison McKenzie), and a new life, with little room for his son. He and Anne are children of divorce themselves, and their struggle to be better than their parents is heartbreaking to watch, even if you have no personal experience of separation.'
'...McKenzie is excellent. She and Klamar are the more emotive sides of the central triangle, which is refreshing – seldom are women on stage allowed to be this desperate, this feral. There’s humour here as well... snappy lines are delivered well. This is Smith’s first London premiere for adults (she's already written a couple of short films and pieces for young people), and it establishes her as one to watch.'
'Wilderness has other thoughtful points to make about gender. Anne reveals at one point that her mother essentially abandoned her and her father after the divorce, highlighting how all too often, it’s assumed that a child’s mother will be its best caregiver; the rare side of patriarchy that only benefits women. We still have a natural urge to sympathise with Anne over Joe, especially since Joe seems to have moved on while Anne is left (largely) on her own with Alistair. But the ping-pong nature of the narrative makes it difficult to tell what’s actually happening when Alistair’s at his dad’s house, or his mum’s, for that matter. Alistair himself is, of course, voiceless. This is the truth of custody battles, that they’re so hard to call fairly because the proof is often each side’s word against the other’s. That this comes across so clearly in Wilderness is a credit to Smith’s even-handed picture of events: like Alistair, we’re torn. Lucy Sierra’s set reflects this sense of uncomfortable impermanence – largely furnitureless, it’s four corners of an empty house, squares knocked through the dividing walls for entrances and exits. The shell of a home, the wallpaper of Alistair’s bedroom peeling away.'
'Richard Frame has a lovely turn later, as a policeman who discovers Joe alone in his car at a low ebb. It’s the best of his three parts: he’s firm and compassionate, allowing glimpses of his genuine fear for a stranger’s life without belabouring the point. Maybe there is a way out after all – but only if Joe and Anne are willing to let Alistair step onto the stage.'
Laura De Lisle, 5 April, 2019
ALAN / PETER / POLICEMAN
STEPHANIE / NEIGHBOUR / CAFCASS OFFICER
Laura De Lisle awards Kellie Smith's Wilderness four stars.
Ben Kulvichit awards Kellie Smith's Wilderness four stars.
Richard Frame, Natalie Klamar, Allison McKenzie and Finlay Robertson to star in Kellie Smith's Wilderness.
Martyna Majok's Cost of Living, Hannah Patterson's Eden and Kellie Smith's Wilderness announced for 2019.
First five performances: All tickets £5
The next twelve performances: £12
Performances thereafter: £14
Seniors: £10 (matinee only)
Under 30s and Students: £10
Groups: For every 9 tickets get the 10th free