What can Hugh Jackman ever do to impress us more than he already has? I wondered as I arrived at Circle in the Square. Eighty five minutes later my question had been answered. Hugh Jackman has chosen to be The Man in The Royal Court production of THE RIVER – written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Ian Rickson and he is terrific.
He has become this character. Entirely human. Real. No singing. No dancing. No flashy, charming smiles (he saves those for the after show auction of his red tee shirt and signed posters, raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids).
The Man is in his uncle’s cabin. Near a river where the sea trout are awaiting to be caught. The crickets are chirping. It’s a magnificent sunset that The Woman (Cush Jumbo with a pitch perfect performance) wants to share with him. But he’s seen it before and is anxious to fish. She’s moved a table and it’s her first time there. He’s upset. She gets a splinter and he removes it with his knife that he uses to filet trout. She goes missing. And The Other Woman (an equally fine Laura Donnelly) enters with a trout that she has caught. A bit confusing at first.
The play has a fascinating structure as both women enter and exit the cabin seamlessly. It’s as though The Man has a revolving door into his bedroom that allows them to enter into and out of his life as if he has done this dozens of times before with other women – always searching for love, finding it and then losing it just as quickly.
The constants are the sunset, the lure, the catch, the preparation, the cooking, the eating and a robin that has gotten itself trapped in the cabin.
The Man himself is bewildered at times. And it is Hugh Jackman’s concentration and full commitment to character that fascinates as he attempts to find a way to make his trout dinner last longer than one night.
But no one is altogether truthful with the other. Three amazing character studies with a skilled lesson in preparing the perfect trout. The dialogue is sharp and smart. Plenty of wit. Plenty of things happening to keep you alert. The direction boarders on the balletic – and I mean that as a compliment – precise – fluid – it’s as if we are in the mind of a man remembering, trying to figure what it is he is doing wrong and why so many women pass through this cabin on moonless nights over and over again.
The thrust stage cabin design by Ultz allows the audience an up close and intimate view of the three very interesting performers – especially Hugh Jackman (manly and sensitive) – who has never allowed himself to be this psychologically exposed before.
It’s a haunting experience that has just been extended by two weeks. Try not to miss it.
Photos: Richard Termine
Tags: No Comments