Far Away

BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

19/05/2016 - 04/06/2016

Production Details

You’ve found out something secret. You know that, don’t you?  

Joan has just seen something she shouldn’t have. Far from home, she hears screams in the night. She’s uncovered a terrible secret that will change the course of her life. Confronting our deepest fears, Caryl Churchill’s extraordinary play depicts a chilling world where everyone is at war, and not even the birds in the trees or the river below can be trusted.

Far Away is a striking, surprising and challenging script. Arguably the most important living female playwright in Britain, Caryl Churchill has written an incredible dystopian fairy tale investigating declining mental health and its impact on individuals and communities. Far Away is short and razor-sharp. It is core material studied in Drama in England, yet we rarely have the opportunity to see a Churchill play in New Zealand. 

Despite being much taught at NZ universities, and described as the “our greatest living playwright” by the UK’s Telegraph, Caryl Churchill’s work is rarely performed in Wellington. Correcting this oversight is one of the aims of this double season. 

Our first show FAR AWAY is a dystopian fairytale investigating declining mental health and its impact on individuals and communities. The Guardian theatre reviewer Lyn Gardner described FAR AWAY as “a wakeup slap to the face, as we sleepwalk towards a future in which governments have played on terror to make us fear ourselves and in which resource wars set country against country.”

FAR AWAY is supported by a grant from Wellington Creative Communities, while our second play LOVE AND INFORMATION is funded via a Wellington City Council Arts and Culture grant. 

FAR AWAY is on at
BATS Theatre, The Dome
Thursday 18 May – Saturday 4 June 2016 
6:30pm Tuesday-Saturday
For further information see:

Click here to see both shows in the Double Caryl Churchill Season for $35 full price and $25 concession!

Harper: Vanessa Rhodes 
Young Joan: Ilena Shadbolt / Vita Jerram 
Joan: Harriet Prebble 
Todd: James Cain

Special thanks to: Bethany Petrovich, Eunji Park, Ian Harcourt, Keagan Carr Fransch, Merlin Connell-Nawalowalo, Niamh Vaughan, Perry Piercy, Simon Boyes, Sophia Elisabeth, Trae Te Wiki, Waylon Edwards 

Production Manager/Lead Stage Manager: Neal Barber
Stage Managers: Devon Nuku, Jacob Brown
Rehearsal Stage Manager: Swati Bhatt
Assistant Director: Jacob Brown
Dramaturgy: Jacob Brown, Maria Jones
Lighting Designer/Operator: Joe Newman
Composer/Sound Designer: Ryan Smith
Sound Operator: Shannon Friday
Production Design – Costumes: Harriet Denby
Production Design – Set & Properties: Rachel Hilliar
Specialty Costume Construction: Lou Paterson, Jane Denby
Set Builder – William Lockwood-Geek
Set Build Assistant – Steven Stocks

Community Outreach Coordinator/Publicity Team Liaison: Clarissa Chandrahasen
Publicists: Caryl Illana, Jacob Brown, Jane Arthur, Talia Carlisle
Rehearsal Photographers: Mitchell Botting, Talia Carlisle
Production Photographer: Philip Merry
Publicity Video Editing and Motion Graphics: Chris Williamson
Marketing Design: Tabitha Arthur
Programme Design: Jane Arthur
Audition Assistants: Maria Jones with: AJ Murtagh, Hazel Oxborough, Hugh Philip, Victoria Seymour

Thank you to our sponsors 
Stone Cutter Vineyards
Robert Malcolm Flooring
Whittakers Chocolates 

And our Funder 
Wellington City Creative Communities

Theatre ,

1 hr

Justice done to subtle, evasive script

Review by Lena Fransham 20th May 2016

A dim night scene, ambient with owl calls and cricket noises (sound design Ryan Smith), opens on Harper (Vanessa Rhodes) at a table with a lap full of men’s shirts and a bowl full of buttons. Rhodes gives complexity to the character of Harper, kindly but conflicted, dissembling and sidestepping the increasingly inconvenient questions of the young Joan, who is engagingly portrayed in this performance by Ilena Shadbolt (role-sharing with Vita Jerram).

We learn just enough from the questions and obfuscations to know Joan’s uncle is up to something very bad and Harper is prepared to mess with Joan’s mind – “Who did you imagine you saw?” – in order to prevent her from finding out the truth.

So much is said in what remains unsaid, and this pertains to the play as a whole. And in this context questions are evoked by the huge pile of clothes behind them and the shirts in Harper’s lap – is she removing their buttons? – that may be connected with recycled garments used in the later scenes.

While the authenticity of the initial scene falters at first, the drama picks up a rolling resonance, building on the mystery, providing possible clues but adding more compelling questions. The adult Joan (Harriet Prebble) appears working in a factory with Todd (James Cain), making hats for ‘the parade’. Their execution of these sequences is well-pitched and understated.

The barest of dialogic hints, delivered casually in their exchanges, illuminates a cognitive dissonance reaching back to the lies in the initial scene. The horror is powerfully embodied in ‘the parade’, a darkly parodic, beautifully scored sequence (composer Ryan Smith) involving well-measured choreography and some exquisite hat designs (costumes Harriet Denby). 

With the final scene’s brilliant, poetic meltdown, the play takes on the qualities of an absurd and paranoid children’s story with its own internal logic and allegorical resonance. The hinted, gestured links between the disjointed story fragments offer us the freedom to make sense of them as we choose. It would be a challenge to do justice to such a subtle, evasive script, but the restraint of Tabitha Arthur’s direction allows its rich ambiguities to move and breathe.  


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