Act by act description
Mad Forest, set in Romania during 1989 explores the reactions of ordinary people to the realities of revolution. This play follows two families connected through the wedding engagement of their children. Together these families experience the madness of the Romanian Revolution, its riots and confusion.
In the first act of the play the audience is introduced to the Vladu's, a poor family of six, and the Antonescu family, a wealthier, smaller family.
The two are linked through the relationship of Florina Vladu and Radu Antonescu and the friendship between Radu and Gabriel Vladu . Both live under the oppressive rule of Nicolae Ceausescu. The beginning of Mad Forest establishes the unrest and pressure of living under a dictatorship while also articulating the economic and social problems of Romania. For example a lack of food represented through the importance of Lucia's eggs in scene one, the lack of reliable electricity in scene two when the Antonescu's resignedly light a candle when there is a power failure, and the lack of safe contraception (scene seven) when Lucia must secretly pay for an abortion.
Act two serves to break up the realism of the play with original monologues of Romanian people. These authentic monologues recounting the week-long revolution are the words of those who participated in and observed the uprising. By describing to the audiences the revolution with the use of this hyper-realistic device of authentic monologues it increases the reality of the play and its issues.
The last act of Mad Forest opens to a vampire and dog in conversation, this use of supernatural characters enables Caryl Churchill to give life to a larger issue through a body that is immediately associated with what is distinctive about the said issues, so the vampire is used to represent people who use a chaotic situation for there own gain; as those who emerge at times like a revolution. This is not unlike the use of another supernatural character, the angel in the first act, who represents an illusion of an untouchable mysticism that is merely corrupt and distorted; a representation of communism and religion. The third act of the play once again revisits the Vladu and Antonescu families, but this time in post-revolution Romania. The audience is immediately able to see a change in the characters but after period of euphoria and freedom, issues merely begin to arise again.
The two families of Mad Forest
||The father figure of the Vladu family. It is clear throughout the play the Bogdan is the head of his wife and to some extent his children. Employed as an electrician, Bogdan, while quietly agreeing with the revolutionary movement, he is unable to bring himself to publicly oppose Nicolae Ceausescu dictatorship until after the week long revolution. Still harbours prejudices towards minorities such a Hungarians.
||The support system of the Vladu Family Irina works as a tram driver but really wants to escape the dictatorship; her husband, Bogden, and she are very supportive of her children's choices.
||A rebel against social standards, she purposefully refuses to conform to any expectations placed upon her. Disgraces her family by marrying an American, but really loves a Hungarian man, Ianos. Spoilt and unaccountable, she represents the move towards a capitalist way of society and thought.
||An obedient daughter who does not wish to upset anyone and will put others before herself. Is a hard-working nurse who is in love with the Antonescu son, Radu, during the first act she accepts being unworthy of Radu due to her sisters love-life but in the third act, the two are married. Florina is the stable working Romanian who work and act consistently, regardless of what of the ruling class.
||An engineer who actively participates in the revolution, his wounded leg a symbol of his dedication to freedom. His actions make his family proud. Celebrated as brave, was truly an original revolutionary.
||Gabriel's wife who is very badly affected by the revolution, afraid of losing what she was able to build (home and relationship with husband) before the revolution and is unable to comprehend a life not under the rule of Ceausescu.
||A reasonably well-off architect who plays the role of quiet observer, who tries to keeps out of trouble. Is given title of traditional head of his family but only out of respect of his wife Flavia.
||A teacher who represents manipulated society, she is able to preach propaganda, and has problems adjusting to life after the revolution due to being blacklisted as a Ceausescu supporter. Flavia exerts her strength over a submissive husband and tries to do the same to her son, Radu, is the unspoken head of the Antonescu family.
||An art student who is heavily influenced by his parents before the revolution but during and after he becomes outspoken and idealistic. A rebellious son who fights against his parents as well as Ceausescu.