Mismatch and Disconnect from David Mamet


 “I can see your body anytime I want to.”


Francesca Carpanini as Ruth and Sam Frenchum as Nick (Photo: Pamela Raith)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it can be applied to Pamela Raith’s photo of the cast above in David Mamet’s play The Woods at Southwark Playhouse.  We see a young woman hanging on for dear life to a man who is looking disinterested.  Mamet’s play is about the disconnect between two people.  It is about ambivalence and psychological or emotional pressure. 

Looking at the woman Ruth (Francesca Carpanini) you can write your own narrative.  Her face is pleading; her arms are holding him in place; she is gripping his coat at shoulder level; her other arm is restraining his left arm.  Nick (Sam Frenchum) seems detached, not looking at her but frowning, unhappy.  Their creative body language tells you that she wants to be there and wants more and he wants to be out of there.

They have come for a few days in a log cabin in the woods which has sentimental memories for him of his childhood and members of his family.  He associates this place with stories of his childhood and he wants to be told stories again.  She associates this as a romantic getaway and voices that it would be nice to exchange gold gifts.  She is looking for commitment; he is looking for escape back to his youth. 

But like all Mamet plays, you do not always get what you expect.  This relationship will shift as Ruth realises that Nick doesn’t want what she wants, and she threatens to leave which he also doesn’t want.  But as is usual for a play by David Mamet, you might also expect a violent interlude. 

Francesca Carpanini as Ruth and Sam Frenchum as Nick (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Nick’s memories have images of being captured by Martians, of Vikings and of a bear that appears when he cannot sleep.  When she says she is leaving, he becomes needy and says he cannot sleep without her.  I don’t know what his memories  really mean, maybe they are childhood fantasy and imagination.  His memories of wartime again have a slant of masculinity. 

I suspect that this Mamet play would leave you with a different impression if you were to see it again . . . and again.  There is a certain fluidity to Mamet’s precise writing.  Certainly the performances are very believable although we hope that the women of 2022 are less dependent on male bonding than their mothers of 1977. 

As the clinging girlfriend, Francesca Carpanini is less than sympathetic and we almost groan as she produces the gold bracelet with its engraved message of everlasting love. 

Sam Frenchum, appearing now in Netflix’s Bridgerton,  bubbles away under the surface, his serenity disguising his feelings but at the same time letting us know he isn’t happy.  Russell Bolam directs and Danielle Tarento’s steadying hand is there as the producer and casting director. Anthony Lamble’s set is the pretty wooden porched cabin surrounded by nature with Bethany Gupwell’s lighting to change the time of day and the thunderstorm.

There is so much to discuss in this 90 minute play such is the complexity of Mamet’s writing and these fine performances

Francesca Carpanini as Ruth and Sam Frenchum as Nick (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Production Notes

The Woods
Written by David Mamet

Directed by Russell Bolam



Sam Frenchum

Francesca Carpanini


Director: Russell Bolam

Designer:  Anthony Lamble

Lighting Designer: Bethany Gupwell

Sound Consultant: Ali Taie

Fight and Intimacy Co-ordinator: Haruka Kuroda


Running Time: 90 minutes without an interval

Booking to 26th March 2022


Southwark Playhouse

Newington Causeway

London SE1 6BD

Rail/Tube: Elephant and Castle

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Southwark Playhouse

on 1st March 2022