Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Far Away

By Caryl Churchill 
Donmar Warehouse, London

When the play was over, there was an awkward silence until one of the actresses, a little wryly, began to applaud herself. TS Eliot may have said that the world would end with a whimper, but it’s an odd endnote for a play under an hour long, the second Caryl Churchill work to open in London last week. Yet Lyndsey Turner’s fraught, finely wrought revival of this millennial anxiety dream still delivers plenty of bang for its buck. It opens as horror: a little girl (Sophia Ally) asks a harassed woman (Jessica Hynes) about macabre goings-on in the night. Next we get a shy romance between two milliners (Aisling Loftus and Simon Manyonda) who are creating fantasy hats against an authoritarian backdrop — revealed in a coup de théâtre glimpse of 30 prisoners sporting the hats, their faces contorting in terror or bewilderment. The third, and weakest, act is an exercise in surreal black comedy. The world is in a state of war so total that even the animals are getting involved. (“The cats have come in on the side of the French.”) Turner’s tight production, its ingenious design and a committed cast all set Churchill’s achievement in a stark light. Far Away is a genre-hopping masterclass.