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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Far Away/Seagulls theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Citizens, Glasgow
Four stars
If you didn't know better, you could think this evening was a single dose of the dazzlingly original Caryl Churchill rather than a double bill. When Seagulls begins, you're still trying to process the curious juxtapositions of Far Away as it switches back and forth from a remote farmhouse to a hat-making workshop. It wouldn't be too great a stretch to imagine the second play, about a woman with fading telekinetic powers, was somehow related.

If they were related, the common theme would be the place of art in a barbaric world. In Far Away (first seen in 2000), Joan is the new girl at a milliners who turns out to be a "hat genius". Only gradually does she realise most of her creations will be destroyed. "You make beauty and it disappears," says her workmate, in awe of the ephemerality of art.

Their labours seem more futile still – and the role of art yet more precious – when contrasted with the farmhouse where a woman covers up for her husband's people-trafficking operation. This innocuous kitchen is a front for the industrial movement of human beings, an idea designer Neil Haynes picks up by loading his set into shipping containers. In Dominic Hill's exquisite production, we see a great mechanical shifting of corrugated metal, accompanied by Scott Twynholm's grinding sound score, as the scene changes themselves become part of the action.

Churchill's asymmetrical structure amplifies our uneasiness about a world that is not as "far away" as we would like to think. The similar uneasiness in Seagulls (first seen in 1990) is in the possibility the authorities will hijack the psychic powers of Valery Blair for military ends. Like an artist, she is only as good as her last performance and, as the pressure to please becomes debilitating, she yearns for simpler times. It makes for a fascinating, troubling double bill.
Mark Fisher
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