London theatre isn’t all £50+ tickets. One of the cheaper venues is the Young Vic, which this November is reviving Caryl Churchill’s Far Away with tickets at £10 and £15.
Churchill is a prolific writer and to me this results in some of her work coming across as staged ideas. At her best, though, she is one of our finest playwrights and Far Away shows her in top form.
So why should a writer make time to see it? Entries to our Play-in-a-day competition showed many writers attracted to the surreal. The problem was tying their world to the one we know. The characters in Far Away behave naturalistically in non-naturalistic circumstances.
The structure is well worth studying. Three scenes, with a common character, Joan. First she’s a questioning child, second a milliner, third a soldier. We aren’t told what happened in between. Nor do we need to, as Churchill’s theme carries it through.
Finally the writing. Again three contrasts. An adult explaining away something a child shouldn’t have seen; Two workers banter as they design the most ridiculous hat; A family taking a break from a war. Each scene entices you in by hinting at what is happening. (How to solve the problem of writing exposition – don’t write it). What we finally learn in Joan’s final speech describing her journey to safety that the world has gone mad.
Or is it just us? The final lesson is how to how to end in ambiguity.