John Bowen’s Robin Redbreast is a kind of episodes of Play for Right now that’s rooted in its period. It’s a quintessentially Seventies mixture of stagey appearing and on-the-nose social points (cohabitation, contraception, abortion), spiced with a creepy infusion of English folklore. It’s idiosyncratic and unnerving, and you may see why they name it a precursor to The Wicker Man. The plot follows Norah Palmer, a TV author who retreats to the countryside the place the locals’ curiosity in paganism appears to transcend the harvest pageant. All proof suggests they’re after her firstborn.

The episode is little sufficient recognized to permit the collaborators of recent firm Music, Artwork, Activism and Theatre (MAAT) to take it in their very own course. Author Daisy Johnson is much less within the cultish horror than in what these people traditions say about girls and motherhood. If the identify Norah displays the proto-feminist Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s Home, right here – with the story stripped to its earthy fundamentals – the character has as a lot in frequent with the transgressive leads in Strindberg’s Miss Julie or Lawrence’s Woman Chatterley’s Lover. On stage, the woodsman Robin (Tyler Cameron) is a unvoiced object of pure lust, whereas Nora (Maxine Peake) follows her primal sexual instincts.

Mesmerising Maxine Peake in Robin/Purple/Breast. {Photograph}: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

From her opening salvo about menstrual blood to a scene with a moms’ help group, Johnson explores the bodily and emotional influence of childbirth. For all its dreamlike fluidity, nevertheless, her monologue is extra poetic than dramatic. Not solely does it deny us a sight of the villagers in all their disturbing oddness however, severing itself from the supply materials, it grows ever extra elliptical and exhausting to pin down.

Peake, although, is compelling, as impassioned as she is gentle on her ft, and director Sarah Frankcom, working with motion director Imogen Knight, builds a mesmerising manufacturing round a central six-sided stage the place Lizzie Clachan’s skeletal cottage is eerily lit by Lizzie Powell. There’s a part performed on headphones and, better of all, a brass band in virginal white skirts and blood-red tunics. They’re otherworldly onlookers, their music, scored by Gazelle Twin, without delay historical, acquainted and unusual.


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