New writing is always an exciting prospect, particularly when the concept behind the play is so very daring, bold and imaginative. Indeed, it cannot be denied that Hannah Chilver-Vaughan’s Three Parallel Places lacked boldness or imagination; rather, the crux of the problem, for me, was how this intricately detailed world of imagination transferred to the stage.
Aesthetically, the play was stunning on-stage: the array of flowers hanging from the ceiling, the rectangle of immaculately green grass and the wonderful simplicity, almost ghostliness, of clear acrylic furniture all captured my attention, promising the audience a beautiful performance from the very pre-set onwards. Costumes, which underwent a transformation from an innocent white palette to a much more dark, sombre yet resplendent one, were immaculately designed also. So, I would be lying if I said this attention to artistic detail didn’t impress me or that the very nature of Ms Chilver-Vaughan’s epic endeavour didn’t intrigue me as an expectant audience member.
However, beauty and grandeur must be put to one side. I chose to go to see a play, not to look at a painting, and I felt that the play lost its way slightly as the convolutions of plot left me feeling rather confused, underwhelmed and to quote the audience member to my right, “a bit all over the place”. Fundamentally, the basis of the play was strong and the concept of three parallel worlds – Earth, Egalitaria and Autocratia – had the potential to provide a subtle political critique or social commentary that left me feeling that my own view of the world I inhabit had been questioned, tested and challenged.
It certainly did feel that reality was attempting to break through the fantasy element of the play during Omega’s (Alex Blanc) well-executed monologue which drew inspiration from the recklessness of ‘rich kids’ growing up in a limitless world of plenty at the expense of morality, goodness and truth. However, this was one of the few moments in the play that dealt with ‘earth as we know it’ and thus seemed ingenious but out of place. On the whole, the play lacked pace and a sense of direction which meant that the clever and passionate heart of the plot got slightly lost amid rather long and winding scenes which created as many problems as they solved.
The actors dealt well with a demanding script and at times, some quite heart-wrenching performances were given. Particular mention should go to Arun Somanathan, who took on the role of the golden child Antipars, and acted with subtlety at the play’s end, offering a more heartfelt performance as perhaps the only character that inspired any sense of pathos from the audience.
As for comedy, Jon Berry must be congratulated for his comic timing and wit. Mr Berry provided both light relief and integrity as a comic actor in his role as the Watch – his physicality was well-developed and his energy remarkable. Even with few lines as George, Mr Berry made the most of the mantra ‘acting is reacting’ in his scenes with Ambrosia, portrayed with commitment by Esme Sanders as a rather annoying, pleasure-seeking girl who matured into a desperate, exasperated young woman.
Ultimately, the play’s foundations had great potential and Ms Chilver-Vaughan delivered a memorable production – a production that I wish had spent slightly less time on aesthetic and slightly more on the delivery of lines, the subtlety of emotional expression and the power of non-verbal communication in moments of stillness.