“The cats have come in on the side of the French”
Blinking ‘eck, she’s a rum one that Caryl Churchill and having now seen Far Away, it is easy to see why we haven’t seen much of the play since its debut in 2000 despite Churchill’s reputation as one of (if not the) pre-eminent living British playwrights. It is perhaps a statement of intent then from Kate Hewitt, the most recent winner of the JMK Award (given to allow practical learning opportunities for young theatre directors of thrilling vision and promising ability), to turn to Far Awayfor her production funded by the proceeds.
Short but anything but sweet, and tucked away into the Young Vic’s studio space, the play encompasses five scenes that show a world heading for the brink as grim atrocities and warmongering become second nature. Samantha Colley stands out (she really has taken The Cut by storm this year after a stunning debut in The Crucible down the road) as Joan – first seen as a young girl blighted by nightmares that her aunt (Tamzin Griffin) can’t quite dispel as they’re rooted in a terrible truth.
Once grown, Joan takes up a job in the one of the most disturbing hat factories ever conceived and it is here that Hewitt delivers her coup de grâce in Georgia Lowe’s design with an innovation of thrilling simplicity but utterly chilling meaning as we’re left in no uncertain terms what she has signed up for and to which she somehow manages to turn a blind eye . The final moments tip society over the brink, and possibly the audience too with a bizarre notion of total war, but the message is strident and strong and one we ignore at our peril. An assured move from Hewitt who’ll also be impossible to ignore.