From Catherine Lucie, The Moor questions the limits of a claustrophobic relationship on the wild and unruly Yorkshire Moors.

Set against the unforgiving Yorkshire moors, Bronagh (Jill McAusland) awakens with a heavy head and vague memories of the night before. Her mind whirs with the dream she has every night, and this morning, with the revelation that a traveller boy has gone missing, she is unable to hide it any longer. With rumours of elves and strange goings on on The Moor, she finds herself and her partner embroiled in a murder investigation, and even her own memories aren’t trustworthy.

The Moor Old Red Lion Theatre
Oliver Britten & Jill McAusland (image courtesy of The Other Richard)

A psychological thriller come folk tale, The Moor is captivating from start to finish. McAusland’s timidity and fear in the face of an oppressive partner, Graeme (Oliver Britten), is palpable, all the while learning to care for her infant child. The fraught nature of the couple’s embittered relationship is explored though the dark, dingy living room of the couple.

Holly Pigott’s set design is ambiguous when it comes to to placing the story against a context of time; the clothes are old-fashioned, the television is black & white and the books are tattered. The only indicator is the mention of the working men’s club, hinting at the 1960s or 70s. This ambivalent setting makes for a timeless feeling, and a story of abusive relationships that are in themselves unconstrained by the limits of time and space.

The Moor Old Red Lion Theatre
Image courtesy of The Other Richard

The set’s twisting back panels that change with the wind effortlessly demonstrate the passage of time across the relentless landscape. Set amongst the ruthless Yorkshire Moors, the lingering remnants of Heathcliffe and Cathy’s tormented and ultimately doomed young love at Wuthering Heights lingers in the air.

The couple are supported by Jonny Magnanti as Pat, the police officer in charge of solving the missing person’s case. Having known Bronagh in her youth, their relationship is almost paternalistic, and at times all too close for a police officer and a potential witness. Blythe Stewart’s direction ensures that the balance of power between the three is juggled throughout the production, and the audience’s sympathies move with each new nugget of information revealed by Bronagh’s memories of the night before.

Jonny Magnanti & Jill McAusland (image courtesy of The Other Richard)

The genius of Lucie’s writing is in this piecemeal dripping of information, recovered from the fragments of Bronagh’s memory and dreams. With each one comes a new twist, and a sense of moving closer to discovering what happened to the traveller, lost on the brutal moor.

It would be unfair to spoil the revelation come the close of the play; it suffices to reveal that the climax is unexpected and packs a twist that’ll satisfy audiences looking for both a commentary on the balance of power in domestic relationships, and a good old fashioned mystery.

 

 

★★★★★

The Moor plays at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 3 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.

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