Far Away is a fable about a world where war has so thoroughly consumed the planet that nature itself has begun to take sides: the cats are in cahoots with the Argentinians, the river is working with the dentists, and nobody is totally sure where gravity’s loyalties lie.
Caryl Churchill‘s script is fiercely abstract, set over fifteen years and sprawling as large as the director allows. This Toronto Fringe production finds its anchor in movement, threading careful choreography through every scene and moment, which makes this production a joy to watch –and peculiarly accessible.
I must emphasize that, when I say “every moment”, I mean it. The effect can initially be jarring — from the audience, it can look like they were too cheap to get Alex Sideris a rocking chair and forced her to go through the motions herself — but once it clicked in my mind, I was utterly smitten with this production. Choreographer Patricia Allison deserves special recognition for how she’s worked the middle scenes together through a device which cannot be described without utterly spoiling it.
The thing about Churchill is that, while her scripts are packed full of goodies for directors, they often leave scant scraps for actors: hit a single note, and maintain it for the entire scene; weave your way between two fixed emotional states; be a force of nature, stop acting at all, treat yourself as a prop which occasionally speaks.
Nevertheless, Sideris will send a chill up your spine, especially when the choreography really takes flight. And the interplay between Michela Cannon and Michael Ayres leavens the exposition considerably: Churchill’s setting up a universe for us to explore, but these two are so charming (and play so well together!) that you’d never know it.
Director Megan Watson’s fingerprints are all over this, too: you don’t get a production this solid without a high-order vision for how it’s going to unfold. From the very beginning, this production feels as though it’s of a piece, every element linked to every other, all pulling together.
And Chris Malkowski’s lighting helps considerably: this is one of those rare instances where Fringe lighting feels deliberate instead of inconvenient. There are two or three effects which, when you see them for the first time, will take your breath away.
Churchill is still Churchill: this script is clever, thoughtful and provoking, but it’s also difficult and unsettling. Far Away is not a crowd-pleaser, and if abstract theatre isn’t your cup of tea, you might check out something else.
But Churchill is also Churchill: if that name sends a zing up your spine, or if you’re just open to a pushy, aggressive, demanding and thoughtful piece of theatre, don’t miss this one.
- Far Away plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave)
- All tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warning: Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Sunday July 3rd, 12:00 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 02:45 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 09:45 pm
- Friday July 8th, 02:15 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 03:30 pm
Photograph of Michela Cannon by Eva Barrie.