Direction : Rehaan Engineer
Writer : Caryl Churchill
Cast : Kalki Koechlin, Sheeba Chadha and Vivek Gomber

FAR AWAY Play Review

Deepa Punjani

 FAR AWAY Review
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British playwright Caryl Churchill's play is going to bother you - however you see it, and even if you may not entirely comprehend it. You might even be discomforted by it, or you may be left with a nagging feeling much after the show is over. In any case it is unlikely you are going to forget it in a hurry. This is enough reason why you should not miss it. Discomfort can be a good thing.

FAR AWAY comprises three pieces, seemingly connected by Joan's character, in her three different stages of life. Yet this is no coming of age story or a studied reflection of a woman's course of life. Joan is rather the spectator of a dystopian world. That she should be a woman should be no surprise. Churchill has a perceptive way of weaving in gender with war in an unspoken place and at an unspoken time. It is war and it is always war, a never-ending war, in which no one can be trusted; not even certain animals. FAR AWAY echoes a fairy tale gone awry; nothing good ever happens. The pool of blood on the road spotted by little Joan only seems to get worse and muddier.

Rehaan Engineer, who returns to directing after a hiatus, confirms at once, his keen sense of stage aesthetics and his daring ability to work with complex texts teeming with abstraction, symbolism and allusions. To that end, he has found a very competent team of core actors - Joan (Kalki Koechlin), Harper (Sheeba Chadha) and Todd (Vivek Gomber). They are articulate and proficient, and have a strong presence, the two ladies especially. They are reassured in their parts. Yet there is incompleteness to their endeavour. There is liminality in Churchill's writing, vital in underlining the thoroughly bleak landscape that the playwright has sought to paint. You want to hear more than just the words being spoken; you want to delve deeper. You don't need to unravel everything, since there is beauty in mystery, which is not the same as incomprehension. It is like taking time with a poem and that is why the delivery, adept as it may be, is not always enough. It also gets monochromatic. Among the three, Koechlin, sometimes, gives us a more heartfelt glimpse into this supremely tragic yet mystifying text with her transitions. In her little girl's character, she is particularly striking - her fear and fragility overcome by curiosity and in a way only children can point out uncomfortable truths.

Rehaan's handiwork is very apparent and qualitatively makes a visible difference in the soundscape, the set design and even in the hats that are created and donned by the miserable group of men and women walking in the shadow of doom. This is a fine-looking production but it is evident at the beginning that there is no joy in it. 'Far Away' is always chillingly near with no redemption in sight. It remains a crucial parable of our times; a piercing pointer to the nexus of power and war and a deeply sad reminder of the wastelands we have created and add to, forever condemning ourselves.

*Deepa Punjani is the Editor of this website.

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