BWW Review: FAR AWAY, Donmar Warehouse
Director Lyndsey Turner and her cast have lots to do in this strange, unsettling 45 minutes of theatrical contrasts and conceits. Fortunately, helped by Peter Mumford's fantastic lighting design, they just about pull it off, lending this short play the gravitas it needs. What could easily collapse into something akin to a teenage creative writing class competition winner produced for the stage, becomes something more like a Peter Strickland movie, setting you off-kilter and keeping you there.
Caryl Churchill's play is revived 20 years on and feels as disorientingly facile yet weighty as ever. Time goes back and forth over a generation and a week, as we learn that the world outside has collapsed into factions (the whole world, all living creatures, even rivers, taking sides) and genocides are underway. Such surrealism is never far from an Emperor's New Clothes moment, after all - people probably felt this way about Animal Farm.
Hats, in a disquieting echo of those godawful role play events at work when team building exercises require their wearing, are donned by the victims, the elaborate confections atop their heads underlining the banality of evil as they "parade".
Aisling Loftus (Joan) and Simon Manyonda (Todd) do a fine job as the milliners, their workplace flirting and pride in their concoctions continually undermined by a gnawing fear of authority and the refusal to deal with the purpose to which their hats will be put. I wondered whether newsrooms in Russia have a similar vibe about them.
But the play is at its best in its less showy conversations. Sophia Ally is splendid as Young Joan, slowly discovering the nature of the horrors at the end of the garden, while Jessica Hynes's (Harper) well-meaning lies are dismantled by a child's artless interrogation.
All we need to do is ask the right questions - I say all...
Photo Johan Persson