Thoughtful production explores the nature of redemption and forgiveness

Random Acts Theatre’s latest production is a challenging piece about redemption, forgiveness and tolerance. In its study of Walter, just released from a 12-year sentence for molesting pre-pubescent girls and trying to regain some semblance of a ‘normal’ life, The Woodsman is also concerned with the nature of obsession. As he moves between his apartment, his therapist’s office and work, Walter is a man confined by more than his limited horizons, and it isn’t long before he finds himself in a secluded section of the park, sitting on a bench beside an 11-year-old girl.

The performance space is small and uncompromising, digital projections indicating scene changes, all of which serve the tension well. The production is eloquent and considered, and the performances are solid: Tim Metcalfe-Wood manages to convey Walter’s psychological complexity, veering convincingly between reproach and self-pity; particularly good are Daisy Dugmore as Nikki, a feisty work colleague with whom Walter begins a relationship, and Richard Ings as Lucas, a cop who believes that criminals cannot change.

The Woodsman was first performed in 2000, and the writer, Steven Fechter, went on to adapt it into an award-winning screenplay for the 2004 film of the same name, starring Kevin Bacon in the lead role, and I think that it is there that Fechter really hit his stride with the narrative and the characters. The play feels rather under-developed in places, the supporting characters occasionally a little too like ciphers for bringing out different aspects of Walter’s experience. However, despite that, it continues to raise important questions about how we feel about the rehabilitation of individuals convicted of the most heinous crimes.

Exeter Phoenix Black Box, 3rd-4th, 8th-10th February, 8pm.

£8 (£5 concessions)