Themes and conventions
Death and sex
The most basic themes of Mad Forest can simply be reduced to death and sex. Perhaps portrayed most plainly through the Vampire (sex), ghost (death) and angel (eternal life) who are personified on stage. Even these entities significance are closely intertwined with the vampire being a symbol of blood-lust which is linked to death and in death it finds eternal life.
Most literally, the process of the play examines the death of a dictator and a way of life of his people as a result of a violent and passionate revolution which, paradoxically, gives birth to potential freedom. Death is often present at the time of climax or conclusion of a situation, which is also a metaphor for the passion experienced through sex. Centring on issues such as oppression; where the threat of death keeps a country silent and the monotony of oppression becomes deathly. The revolution is the agent of death where people are brutally dealt with, the death of Dictator Ceausescu who himself with his Securitate were symbols of death. In contrast however, though closely linked with the revolution and the theme of death, are the relationships between the young and a euphoric state immediately after the fall of Ceausescu, both which are metaphoric to sex. While sex is often seen as a state madness, western belief is that the achievement of sex is a triumph, one closely tied into Mad Forest by the overthrow of Ceausescu.
Two of the three acts of Mad Forest revolve around two families. These families are defined by the interconnecting relationships they share and their relationships with other characters that are imposed into their lives.
A relationship is the condition or fact of being related, connected or associated, whether it is by blood, marriage or kinship. It is an incredibly important factor of the characters lives because of their lack of ownership over anything, due to living in a communist society, and these relationships stabilise the characters throughout the events of the play. The journey these characters go on throughout the play are symbolic of the resourcefulness of human beings; the processes of repairing wounded ties and the creation of new relationships in the attempt to create a meaningful and fulfilling existence.
The stage of early maturity is often associated freshness, vigour and spirit. While the condition of being young is a hindrance before the Romanian Revolution and the old taught the young how to survive in a dictatorship, when the old political system fell away, the old turn to the young for guidance, because even though inexperienced, the youth represent potential and unproblematic adjustment. It is also a stage where the protector of the youth can distance themselves as the youth searches for independence away from their protector but authoritarian figure.
One of the three Christian virtues, hope, is the driving force behind Caryl Churchill's Mad Forest. It is hope and a little bit of desperation that drives the Romanian people to revolt for a better way of life. It is the expectation and wish for freedom that motivates characters Radu and Gabriel to fight in the revolution and to continue voicing their beliefs well after the revolution.
"Hope against hope, to continue to hope, although the outlook does not warrant."
Mixing realism with the super natural - a dog being able to talk, the characters of the vampire, ghost and angel.
The use of a series of truncated or anti-climatic short scenes, these ending in silences undefined as a meaningful pause or moment between scene change.
Scenes introduced by an actor, (one not involved in the scene at hand) reading from a prominently labelled "Romanian Phrase Book." In each case the phrase, while plausibly a phrase which might actually appear in one of those books, it also identifies a character and the theme of the upcoming scene
Mixture of fictional with the actual, the hyper-realistic device of incorporating authentic monologues of those who participated in and observed the uprising.
The use of mixed of languages, in the introduction of the scenes in act
one and in the final scene both Romanian and English are used.