Far

Mon 8th – Thu 11th August 2011

reviews

Ryan Sarsfield

at 09:12 on 9th Aug 2011

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‘I want to know where I’m going’ cries Kathryn Uribe, or ‘the purple one’. I wanted to know where the play was going. ‘Far’ appears to have no purpose whatsoever. It’s basically an hour of insincere, at times crass, philosophizing on the nature of growing up. ‘Have you lived a fulfilled life?’ the play asks – well, watching this play, far from making me evaluate my life, merely asserted my conviction that this Disney-esque school of acting cannot be anything but atrocious.

‘I’m a teenager, I don’t take anything seriously,’ ‘that’s your problem,’ is the reply. ‘How do you choose which door to take when you don’t know what’s behind each one?’ Oh wait, that’s a metaphor for life – how profound. There’s a map for each of us but (surprise, surprise) we don’t know where we are on it, ‘There’s only one person who knows – God of course’ (believe it or not, that is a direct quotation). ‘Far’ regurgitates the same nonsense again, and again, and again. Being subjected to the play prompts existential despair rather than any kind of life assessment. At one point Shasta Bernier (‘Yellow’) is made to shout out ‘Go Team!’, it’s just painfully uncomfortable to have to watch.

This is a shame, because the one redeeming feature is that all three actors are animated and expressive throughout and given something better to work with I couldn’t help but feel that they could be more impressive. Considering the long list of productions the three have already appeared in they clearly aren’t inexperienced and between them they enact some decent miming.

The worst thing is that Chuck Kuhn’s script presents teen life as wholly vapid and self-absorbed. It is suggested, for example, that the answer to a girl’s success in dating is making a checklist of what she wants from a boy (cute looks, good teeth, nice smell all feature). Beneath the insipidity of it all, the play is actually exceptionally cynical. Far from inviting the audience to explore, Kuhn seems to champion ignorance – although I doubt anyone involved in the production would be able to see this. It’s the same kind of superficial rubbish that forms the basis of High School Musical and Glee, although thankfully the cast of ‘Far’ avoid erupting into spontaneous song.

For the most part the audience are left wondering what’s going on. From the affected opening to the end (where the only hint of a plot is finally realized) the audience is subjected to a script full of appallingly clichéd drivel. I hope the Players of the Vine are given something better to work with in the future.

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Fen Greatley

at 12:08 on 9th Aug 2011

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When did they cancel the Powerpuff Girls? And why did no one tell me? I only found out when the lights went up at this Players of the Vine production - or rather distraction - and the three were sat on stools like some lifeless tribute act, yellow, red and purple.

Problems will always arise when you have no structure or real discernable plot. After torches and a lengthy and irritating series of gong interruptions to a cheesy CD in the background during which three girls define various monosyllabic and nonsensical words in glib tones, technical difficulties stop for the play.

It really isn't a play, though. A preachy, self-righteous girl (Kira Jamison) in red scolds lost girl in purple Kathryn Uribe for a whole host of reasons, mostly to do being the average American teenager created by their society. The pathetically repeated 'I don't know where I am? Where am I?' and harping on about an unreadable map is answered only by the equally annoying attempts at mystery from Jamison.

Crass jokes about Canada and the UK feature heavily alongside these weak metaphors and a profound lack of performance values: dialogue from Jamison and Uribe is rushed, poorly enunciated and lacking in any kind of variation of tone.

There is a strong reliance on inventive novelties to entertain us, desperate attempts to bring in some kind of meaning or merit - one strange sort of gameshow sees a comedy presenter offering Uribe a choice of doors - while quirky jokes eek laughter out of the production of bizarre objects or zingy one-lingers. It all tries far too hard to be too cute.

Basic theatrical practices of delivering lines outwards, to the audience and not the floor or the back of the stage, are ignored, or have made way for silly tricks with torches and the aforementioned interludes.

There is absolute minimal movement in the piece, Uribe spending most of the piece looking permanently and unchangingly confused and rooted to the spot. Jamison and her accomplice (Shafta Bernier) do not stray from their respective stage-right and left positions. Nothing about Uribe is convincing – stock movements, including the head in the hands look and the moving up of the arms from by your side (go on, do it – you know what I mean), are even lazy and tiresome to watch.

Bernier herself is the leading light in this offering, her lines delivered well and a good sense of freshness maintained throughout the piece. She works well with the lumps of clay around her and the spiky script, mostly because of her confidence and self-assurance. Not afraid to look silly, she pulls off her character, although it is an annoying character that is used too much in a distracting way.

The 'big twist' in the plot is a long time in the making and, although pretty obvious for the duration, still feels like a bolt from the blue upon its entrance to the proceedings, nothing leading to it. Its exposition is laboured, brimming with cliché and cemented with a dreadful monologue, the dramatic anticlimax of the piece. Nor does Uribe learn anything – it's all pointless, since she doesn't recognise her ignorance, going ahead and winning a quiz show (another interruptive sketch) loaded with American general knowledge questions. Even if she had learnt something, it'd be too late anyway, as she is dragged, screaming to her grave. This show and its audience are confused.

I could only compare Far to watching a bad episode of Sabrina or Lizzie Maguire, pop culture references that probably show that I'm way past it, 'totally old' at the ancient age of twenty-one.

This piece of theatre is unbelievably self-obsessed and self-indulgent, a vapid script and equally empty performance for an audience of preppy Cali gurrrls. You might say it is the 'Friday' of the theatrical world, one of the girls (Bubbles?) even resembling Rebecca Black somewhat.

This review is probably more interesting than the show itself, yet another waste of time from the American High School Theatre Festival. Take the show's titular warning and stay far, far away from this one.

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