Fen Review

Sarasvàti Productions
Until Feb. 7, Rachel Browne Studio

For the female farmers of The Fens, life stinks more than the sloughs that once stood under their feet.

Set in The Fenlands of eastern England, a low-lying, naturally soggy region that was drained for agricultural purposes in the 18th and 19th centuries, Fen explores the exploitation of the land and the labourer, and the troubles that follow.

After toiling in the muck all day, the women workers go home to failed relationships, domestic abuse and even death. In Churchill’s characteristically complex style, the women’s plight is illustrated through several storylines. For example, Fen’s main character, Val (Livia Dymond), has not only left her husband for a new beau (Ray Strachan), but also her two children, while Angela (Toni Reimer), after sweating in the slog, goes home only to take her frustrations out on her stepdaughter Becky (Rhea Fedorchuk).

Directed by Hope McIntyre, the Sarasvàti cast is quite capable, especially when breaking out into song. I particularly enjoyed Fedorchuk’s Becky, Nan Fewchuk as one of the potato pickers and Jane Burpee (Ace’s mom) as one of Val’s children. Not exactly a kid anymore, Burpee has no problem channelling her inner child. Also, the set is excellent, with rows of potatoes covering the floor.

Churchill’s 1983 play is in no doubt a response to the massive unemployment and struggles of the working class that occurred in England under Margaret Thatcher’s leadership. Although it is not outwardly announced that this is a 1980s piece, Becky’s leg warmers sure do give it away.
— Jared Story

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