Duncton Wood

A scene from Duncton Wood A scene from Duncton Wood, Union Theatre. Photo: Darren Bell

This British musical has been 25 years in the making since its composer/lyricist Mark Carroll first started working on it. Now distilled though a tenderly beautiful production by Michael Strassen that confronts its strange, allegorical fantasy mole world head-on without imposing any defensive irony, a youthful ardour in the writing still shines through.

So does an obvious debt to Les Miserables in its musical idioms, heavy on ardent, throbbing ballads. Revolution is also in the air here, in which two characters Bracken (Josh little) and Rebecca (Amelia-Rose Morgan) have to fight complicated odds to be with each other.

Though some of those obstacles, both religious and character-driven, may be hard to swallow – and are sometimes hard to follow, too – Strassen’s mostly youthful cast give it a shining vocal clarity and intricate physical movement to provide a compensating atmospheric intensity throughout.

Tim Deiling’s dappled lighting shines through the camouflage tank netting that provides an appropriately simple solution to presenting the woods themselves, while musical director Josh Sood presides over a terrific five-piece band to lend Michael England’s scoring texture and variety.

This may not be West End material, but it could prove a hit with community amateur companies wanting something different
Mark Shenton
Mark is associate editor of The Stage, as well as New York critic. He has written regularly for The Stage since 2005. His columns appear online every Wednesday and Friday.