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Review of The Moor at the Old Red Lion Theatre

The Moor: Old Red Lion Theatre - Jonny Magnanti and Jill McAusland (courtesy of The Other Richard)
The Moor: Old Red Lion Theatre – Jonny Magnanti and Jill McAusland (courtesy of The Other Richard)

A child-woman is in slumber, her legs curled under her. She is half supine, her head nestled in a throw blanket, casually tossed over the back of a hard-plastic chair. Something disturbs her sleep, a prophetic dream perhaps, one filled with the shadows of a recent past.

This is our introduction to Bronagh (Jill McAusland), a young mother in a claustrophobic relationship with Graeme (Oliver Britten), the father of their infant child. Bronagh awakes when Graeme stumbles in from a boozy birthday party; she was with him earlier but, worrying about the babysitter, she decided to leave and walk home through the Moor. Graeme is jealous, drunk and abusive. Surely she left him to go off with another man. Bronagh must offer words to reassure him. She was tired, she left early, that’s all. But what about the handsome traveller? The one with the blue eyes and dark hair. Graeme saw Bronagh speak with him when she was in the queue for the Ladies. Oh, Bronagh says, he just wanted directions. ‘Honest, Graeme, I spoke with him for 10 minutes, that’s all.’ But during the night the traveller goes missing on the Moor, Bronagh says she saw something, and soon the police are involved.

Pat (Jonny Magnanti) heads the police investigation. He is an old family friend, but Bronagh’s memories of him suggest something more territorial. Anything’s possible because, when she was alive, Bronagh’s mother told her there was an elf in the house. And an elf can either protect you or go against you. Bronagh keeps the lights switched off and the shades drawn, perhaps if the elves can’t find her, they can’t hurt her. And so begins the premise of The Moor, Catherine Lucie’s powerful and disturbing tale of what might happen if we recounted an incident with more than one premise. How many outcomes might we conceive? It is a credit to Jill McAusland’s unique talents that Bronagh’s volatile imaginings (or are they?) can easily be believed. She is trapped in a loveless and violent relationship. Fantastic imaginings may be the only get-out clause.

And what of Graeme? Is he just an ogre? Oliver Britten applies many layers of pigment to his character. Graeme’s own life is as bleak as Bronagh’s but there is a sense that he loves both his wife and baby if he could only believe himself worthy of them. In contrast, Jonny Magnanti’s nuanced portrayal of Pat is self-assured, honest and sympathetic to Bronagh’s plight. But even if she is an old family friend, he must conduct a missing person’s investigation, and we totally believe he’s been in law enforcement for years.

The Moor is a perfectly tuned ensemble of inventiveness. Director Blythe Stewart’s easy hand allows the actors to flex their intuitive muscles. Holly Pigott’s set – the use of opaque, rotating screens – enhances the psychological space each character inhabits, while Jamie Platt’s lighting, and Anna Clocks’ sound and music, allow us to feel the threat of an ancestral Moor. It’s the one that lies just beyond the doorstep, dangerous and unsettling for those who cross it in the dark.

Highly recommended for those who favour psychological thrillers with unexpected twists and intricate plot.

4 stars

Review by Loretta Monaco

Bronagh has lived right at the heart of the moor for as long as she can remember. But recently she has started having the same dream over and over again – with the voices and the whispering. Is it trying to tell her something?

When a boy vanishes, Bronagh has to tell someone what she suspects, entangling herself and her boyfriend in a murder investigation. But how can anyone find the truth when the ground keeps shifting?

The Moor is a tense psychological thriller, part domestic drama, part folk tale, that pits Bronagh against her own past and present, dragging her, her baby daughter and those closest to them into something deeper than the marsh on the moor.

Cast: Jill Mcausland, Oliver Britten & Jonny Magnanti
Writer: Catherine Lucie
Director: Blythe Stewart
Designer: Holly Pigott
Lighting Designer: Jamie Platt
Sound Designer: Anna Clock
Producer: Zoe Robinson
Marketing: Rebecca Usher

Old Red Lion Theatre
418 St John St, Clerkenwell
London EC1V 4NJ
Running Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes (No Interval)
Tuesday 6th February – Saturday 3rd March 2018


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