Caryl Churchill's Cold Metaphors by Gregory Bunker
Bad Dress’s take on esteemed British playwright Caryl Churchill’s Far Away is, indeed, so distant as to be indecipherable. Published in 2000, Far Away’s high-minded, postmodernist theme of pervasive fear in a world where everything – humans, deer, grass, trees, rivers, even weather – is at war, seems to require training in philosophy and dramaturgy to truly understand. Having an education in science, I can say that from this perspective it is ecologically daft. In a world where animals are constantly trading sides, how would ecosystems even function? Why would gravity care to get involved? And how would anyone even communicate with it? We are not provided with explanations for how we got into this dystopia or rules for how it works, and this is not ok. Simply put, the writing of this play is an intellectual exercise and not for a general audience.
Unfortunately the acting and directing only add to the chasm between what is happening on stage and what is supposed to be happening in our heads. The dialogue and body language, for example, between a little girl and her aunt in the first scene were so cold and distant that I was certain these two people barely knew each other. The second scene saw equally emotionally empty chit-chat between the now-grown-up girl and a new fellow as they make hats together. And when prisoners don the hats and walk down what seems to be a fashion runway to their deaths, it’s just too absurd for me to care. By the third scene I was beginning to think that the lack of feeling in everyone was deliberate irony (postmodernism!). But it wasn’t. The music, though, is beautiful. Mary Lougheed composed and plays an original score that complements the moodiness of the set nicely.
As a play, Far Away drowns in illogical metaphors, begging you to add meaning. As a production, the acting and directing prevent its five scenes from having any emotional resonance or continuity. At least it’s short.