A New DramSoc Production

Mon 19th – Fri 23rd November 2012

reviews

Natasha Hyman

at 00:01 on 20th Nov 2012

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Caryl Churchill’s 'Far Away', which first premiered at the Royal Court in 2000, is dystopian and non-linear. Churchill’s dense, often confusing script relies on a sinister atmosphere. Zoe Hunter-Gordon effectively created this from the moment the audience entered the theatre, through the use of haunting music and with the three actors eerily spread around the space. It was a shame that the music didn’t continue for a bit longer, in order to set the tone before the show started. However, with the start time delayed, cast and audience alike were eager to get on with the show.

Despite a slightly rushed beginning, I was immediately captivated by Joan, played by Alice Kirk. Her detailed expressions were completely mesmerising to watch; a perfect casting choice for the intimate Wardrobe Theatre. The fragility she conveyed reminded me of Mia Wasikowska. Olivia Black, who played Harper, had a physical gravity that contrasted well with Kirk’s frailty. Sebastian Twining as Todd, Joan’s love interest, was also strong and well cast. The actors all handled Churchill’s difficult language well, but Twining made most sense of it. On that note, it would have helped if there were a few more pauses, if only for the words to sink in.

The staging matched the piece as equally as the acting. Gordon's uncomplicated approach during the scenes effectively foregrounded the complex language. The actors moved the set and changed costume on stage, using stiff robotic movements. Far from dragging out the show, these scene changes worked well to create tension. This was additionally helped by the sound of a thudding heartbeat in the background. There were occasional hesitations during the set changes- it is difficult in such a small space, where the smallest movements make an impact. As this was the first night of the run, I’m sure these stutterings will be ironed out.

One particularly impressive moment was after the scene set in the hat factory. An ensemble moved across the stage, terrified and tied together by rope, wearing the gaudy hats created by Joan and Todd. This image of humiliation and servitude chillingly contrasted with Joan and Todd’s flirting and discussion of their low pay. Special mention must go to Lucy Briggs and Lucy Day who designed the hats, which were wonderful.

'Far Away' is touching, darkly funny and completely baffling. I couldn’t help but leave at a bit at a loss. I was confused and provoked, but I didn’t feel like I had enough time with the play. This is probably as much a reflection of the play itself as of the direction. Nonetheless it was a beautifully commanded piece and well worth seeing.

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