In Caryl Churchill’s Fen, laborers are bound to the land. These women pick out stones from the fields, dig up potatoes, and bag onions. Their lives are determined by the farmers and faceless conglomerates who buy up the land--economic transactions which keep the villagers in poverty. One woman, Val, can no longer bear the dreary life she is in. She finds happiness with Frank, and the two leave their respective spouses to be with each other. But her new romance is not all Val hoped for; she is miserable without her children, but it is financially impossible for her to bring them with her. While Val and Frank try to negotiate the emotional turmoil of their relationship, the other villagers around them struggle to find happiness and meaning in their own lives: Shirley resolves to be happy with domestic monotony, Angela tortures her stepdaughter Becky, Nell agitates the farmers and landowners, and Alice seeks salvation with the local Baptist church. The bleakness and history of the fens permeates the villagers’ lives, and the ghosts of the past haunt their hopes for the future.
Fen guide sections