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Far Away/Seagulls

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
There's something astonishing about this rare double bill of short 
plays by Caryl Churchill, if only to get some kind of insight into how 
this most singular of writers mind works. In Far Away, first seen in 
2000, a young girl is exposed to the brutality of a war which becomes 
increasingly extreme. At first, Lucy Hollis' Joan appears to be an 
evacuee who witnesses her uncle doling out violence to a lorry-load of 
refugees, only to be co-opted into a conspiracy of silence by her aunt. 
By the end, she's in the thick of a conflict which has corrupted the 
planet so much that even nature and the animal kingdom are taking sides.

Seagulls, which dates from 1978, is less elliptical in its observation 
of how raw talent can be corrupted by celebrity.  Kathryn Howden's 
Valery is able to move objects with her mind, and, with her manager Di 
in tow, is about to launch a rocket for charity in front of a huge 
audience before being investigated by scientists at Harvard. Except, 
with the pressure on, she can't perform.

Director Dominic Hill has pulled out all the stops here, with Far Away 
in particular a technical marvel which has each scene punctuated by 
designer Neil Haynes' huge corrugated iron doors sliding open and shut 
as Scott Twynholm's dissonant industrial score plays. A mid-scene 
fashion parade proves even more jaw-dropping.

The plays themselves, featuring a set of wonderfully nuanced 
performances from Hollis, Howden, Alasdair Hankinson and Maureen Carr, 
are fiercely moral fables, even as they're shot through with a wry wit. 
It's Valery's moment of stillness at the end of Seagulls, however, 
that's most telling.

The Herald, May 27th 2013

ends

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