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Review: Far Away, at Donmar Warehouse

Spine-chilling, surreal world in Caryl Churchill’s 45-minute play

27 February, 2020 — By Howard Loxton

Simon Manyonda in Far Away. Photo: Johan Persson

CARYL Churchill’s play lasts only 45 minutes but has power out of all proportion.

Lyndsey Turner’s production starts with a reflective, silver-streaked cube covering the stage. It could be stone, metal or glass but is certainly ominous.

A little girl in her nightie enters and tries to peer into it; it could be a rain-streaked window.

The cube disappears in darkness and little Joan has run to her aunt Harper. She’d woken, heard a scream and climbing out of the window saw something that had scared her and left her with blood on her feet. Harper (Jessica Hynes) assures her all is well, that her uncle has been helping people, but her explanations don’t ring true.

The cube is transformed into a curtain and little Joan appears with a sewing basket. When it rises, a grown-up Joan (Aisling Loftus) picks up the basket and enters a scene where she and co-worker Todd (Simon Manyonda) are milliners making fantastic creations. In a series of short scenes they talk about corruption and trials on television, of winning prizes for the best hat and there is a grim glimpse of what their hilarious concoctions are made for.

Going further into the future, Todd is at Harper’s house; a soldier on leave. In their dystopian world enemies and alliances are constantly shifting, not just between nationalities but also species and professions; people are hardened to killing.

Joan (now Todd’s wife) has come looking for safety. She’s had to cross a river without knowing which side she was on. Their fears would be sardonically funny if they didn’t seem so prescient.

Churchill’s imagination has a frightening reality. The increasing threat of environmental and political change makes this spine-chilling, surreal world seem even closer than when it was written. Far Away is unsettlingly dramatic and well worth seeing.

Until March 28
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