Albery Theatre, London WC2
Opened 18 January, 2001

In less than an hour, Caryl Churchill blends her tastes for great moral-emotional issues and oblique, even absurd approaches to them.

Transferring from the Royal Court to the West End, Far Away uses just three scenes to suggest a world first subtly out of kilter, then in complete upheaval. A little girl, unable to sleep, is told a string of threadbare lies by her aunt to cover up what she saw in the back garden; she grows up to land a job making extravagant hats for weekly fashion parades of condemned prisoners on their way to execution; finally, back in the country cottage, the whole planet is riven by faction and ever-shifting alliances Danes are at war with dentists, wasps with the weather, and even crossing a river means risking the wrath of the water.

All of these situations and exchanges are played with absolute literalness; Churchill may well have gone too far in her last phase, but even as we laugh at the ridiculous remarks we uncomfortably recognise the modes of political debate which underlie them. It is a fine opportunity for director Stephen Daldry to remind us that the feelgood of his film Billy Elliot is a long way from his preferred register in the theatre, and its curiousness (in every sense) as West End fare is refreshing.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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