The tagline for Far Away reads ‘The cats are on one side of the French; the elephants work with the Koreans now’. Confused at all?
You will be, but this does not detract from a powerful production of Caryl Churchill’s chillingly disturbing play. Cassie Barraclough shines as the central character Joan, dealing well with the challenges of playing a child and an adult in quick succession. The onstage chemistry between Barraclough and Jonnie McAloon (as Todd) works well, especially in silent moments. The smiles the two exchange while working in the hat factory light up an otherwise dark and disturbing world, though it would be good to see longer pauses between their lines here to exploit the effectiveness of their quiet companionship.
While not as strong as Barraclough in the opening scene, Annie James (as Harper) came into her own in what promises to be a very atmospheric speech, with a stage effectively lit by candlelight.
In fact, the effects that we were unable to see at the press preview should enhance the production. The simplicity of the set will be improved immeasurably once Barraclough and McAloon have colourful hats to occupy themselves with, and the play will work well in a darkened studio. The traverse staging was unusually successful – visibility was good and the actors’ movements did not seem overly directed. The video footage used for one of the play’s central scenes was less effective – while the idea was good, the execution wasn’t as professional as the rest of the production, but perhaps with further editing and the incorporation of sound effects this section too will be tightened up for the play’s opening night.
Far Away is at the BT studio, 26-30 January, 19.30