Feral: Sherling Studio, Lighthouse, Poole (Friday 14th June, 2019)

Award-winning playwright John Foster says that a true a story he heard some years ago is at the root of Feral, his new Gypsy-Folk drama.

That original story has clearly been through many changes but its essence remains - a wild-child, penned in by urban society, feels compelled to break free and heads for the countryside. In John’s play - his latest collaboration with longtime associate, the director Charmain K. Parkin, we discover why this free spirit yearns for the natural world.

Originally written as a 75 minute monologue, Feral now has wonderful sound, music and songs to add emphasis, spirit and mood to the rhythmic Foster text.

Bringing the whole thing to life are musician and sound artist Lucie Treacher and actor and singer-songwriter Maria Theresa Rodriguez who plays Simone, a troubled 18-year-old  who feels that her head will explode if she spends another day on the council estate her family call home.

She runs away seeking the fields and woods that make her feel as though she belongs. Living rough and stealing to survive she encounters a strange old man on a beach. Is there a spark of recognition? On the run from the police, she escapes to a gypsy camp and discovers some startling home truths.

This is a magical tale that has been filtered through the imaginations of some very talented people. They make much with what I suspect is a very low budget. This is experimental theatre that uses its wits. There are great performances, striking costumes and a fine tale to tell.

I’m not entirely sure though in what era it is set. The two performers look as though they have escaped from the cover of an Incredible String Band album, police are referred to as “the bluebottles” and appear to wear frock coats yet there are CCTV cameras around. Confusing perhaps, but does it matter? I think not. It’s quite fun to have a little time-travel thrown into the equation.

And anyway if John Foster, a man whose CV includes writing episodes of Z-Cars and Softly Softly, can’t refer to the police as bluebottles then I don’t know who can.

*Feral continues on tour returning to Dorset with performances at the Swanage Amphitheatre on 14th and 15th July.

Jeremy Miles



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