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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Far Away
Donmar Warehouse Theatre February-March 2020

If war is by its very nature disorganised, then absolute war must mean absolute chaos.

Caryl Churchill's forty-minute play seems to carry this premise to its logical conclusion. But its method is so oblique and its metaphoric vocabulary so opaque as to be more frustrating than enlightening.

A child witnesses some atrocities she cannot understand but will never forget. A woman calmly does her needlework while her husband tortures traitors.

A soldier on leave reports that last year's allies and now enemies and vice-versa. The animals of the world join in the war, the alligators siding with one country, the birds with another, while the deer, who were against us, have switched sides and are now our allies.

In the middle of this is what appears to be an extreme trivialisation, as artists are paid to design ever-more-elaborate hats for weekly fashion parades to distract the populace.

All expectations or laws of physics ('The Bolivians are working with gravity') are being negated in the general disintegration of order.

I think. Maybe.

Or maybe the play is about something else or, as a programme note suggests, is Beckett-like in its extreme compression and requires dedicated unpacking.

Certainly this somewhat static revival by Lyndsey Turner, seemingly more interested in designer Lizzie Clachan's striking visual images, does little to clarify meanings, characterisations or even plot lines, while the cast too often seem unsure just who they are supposed to be.

When the play stopped – not ended, just stopped abruptly – the woman next to me asked 'What was it about?'

'It was about forty minutes long' was all I could, or can now say.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Far Away - Donmar Theatre 2020
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