November 11, 2006, by Peter Kirwan

The Indian Boy (RSC) @ The Cube

This was the ‘big’ new production of the Cube- a new commission by the RSC, and a response to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

A new housing estate is being put up on some ancient woodland, and the builders find a mysterious Indian Boy in the trees. Knocking him out, he’s admitted to a psychiatric ward where a doctor, his estranged and mentally ill wife and their daughter start engaging with him. Meanwhile, the head builder, Peter, seems to have his own agenda, and is desperate to keep the Boy away from the wood and finish the work, while his three workmen try to muddle through.

As the forest starts to take over both the estate and the hospital, Peter begins to act more strangely and irrationally. Julius, the doctor, and June his wife reunite, and then fight- during their struggle, the boy and daughter run back to the woods, where Peter attacks the boy. As everyone meets, it becomes clear that Peter is trying to escape the forest to which he has been bound- he wants to come into our world and leave this all behind, and needs the Boy to forget his former existence in the wood in order to do this. As they struggle, and June intervenes, the tree collapses, Peter disappears and the Boy falls to earth. Taken back to the hospital, the Boy has changed from his feral self to a childlike boy called Amid, having to relearn everything as if a baby. The play ends on a somewhat downbeat note, as we wonder what has truly happened, and whether the forest has won or lost.

The play was both interesting and unusual. In terms of it’s relation to ‘Dream’, the links were loose- a group of builders bore similarities to the mechanicals, the Indian Boy could certainly have been the Boy of ‘Dream’, and Peter bore similarities to both Oberon and Puck, in his obsession with the boy, his interfering with the troubled couple and his kinship with the forest. More than that, though, this was a play about what happens when nature and civilisation meet, how wildness brings out the wildness inside ourselves. Throughout the play the Boy, who barely spoke, moved like a cat and made noises which related directly to the moods of the people around him, both responding to and affecting the world around him.

Writer Rona Munro juxtaposed a great amount of humour with some very serious issues- June in particular an outpatient from the psychiatric ward, working on her PhD and in an odd relationship with her old doctor. The script had its clunky moments, with occasionally poetic language that didn’t quite fit the situation and a couple of moments where the action and characters seem to jump oddly, particularly during scenes of drama in the hospital – though this may have been the direction rather than the text.

Ultimately I don’t know how much I liked tha play. It was certainly enjoyable and interesting, but I think it’ll take a little time to work out what I took away from it- unlike ‘One Of These Days’, which had quite an immediate impact on me. The performances were all fine, particuarly those of Rhik Samadder as the Boy, Christopher Fulford as the permanently edgy Peter and David Kennedy as a very believable- and funny- brickie. It was also nice to see the Cube being used for a larger-scale production (though the epic Forkbeard Fantasy will probably take the prize for use of space!). I may post again about this production once I’ve thought about it more.

Posted in Theatre review