The Cold Clear Elsewhere

Sat 2nd – Sat 23rd August 2014


Fay Watson

at 08:46 on 11th Aug 2014



Hidden on the other side of town, as part of the Free Fringe, The Cold Clear Elsewhere sits on a stool, unassumingly singing "Paper Moon". It is an intimate tale of the first and consuming love of a young Australian, Grace, that turns out to be too good to be true, and is set in the late and post World War II years. Based upon real stories of the HMS Victorious, otherwise known as 'the bridal ship', the play is evocative and touching, raising issues of growing up, family and loss in its unique monologue experience.

It is written and performed by the absurdly talented Jennifer Williams in what is pegged as a "new storytelling experience". And, indeed it is. The play is performed by Williams narrating events in the third person, and then becoming each individual supporting character. Throughout the hour-long show she whizzes through a number of accents and postures. It is an impressive physical performance with Williams able to mold herself from a brash father to the outgoing best friend with the ease that comes from hard rehearsal work.

However, as impressive as this is, the format does make difficult watching at times. For example, the meeting of Grace and Alan is a romantic moment full of banter and nerves; the audience should get swept away in its charm. Instead, the conversation is had by Williams alternating accents sentence by sentence. I do not understand why the piece could not simply just have another actor. While, the format is at times impressive, it does feel slightly unnecessary. Sarah Sigal's direction attempts to eliminate confusion and mostly succeeds but in a show such as this, with so many changing characters, befuddlement is inevitable.

The overall production value of the piece is high, with fading maps hanging on washing lines, and 1940s costume. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the music of Chris Williams, which begins with a medley of songs. These are sung absorbingly by Jennifer and Chris. Throughout the show, music and sound is important in setting the tone and pacing of this potentially difficult piece.

It is a great story, and a great performance, but the format remains frustrating. These moments are ultimately redeemed, however, by the switch to first person and a genuinely touching moment that, as the piece ends, leaves you feeling helpless for this sad soul. It is much like the how Williams describes the war; "an ending not without its consequences" but an ending nonetheless.


Millie Morris

at 10:04 on 11th Aug 2014



As free shows go, the result is normally hit-and-miss. Occasionally a triumph rears its modestly-grinning head out of the blue, but often it becomes a cruel yet apparent truth as to why one has not paid almost ten mandatory pounds to see a free production. However with 'The Cold Clear Elsewhere', a one-woman show illustrating a wartime tale with a twist, I am uncertain as to where this slots in on the scale. Like the globe-crossing journey taken by the heroine of the show, the play falls somewhere straight down the middle of the map. It is a competent production with some excellent acting, yet leaves me wanting just a little something more.

This is a play with a difference, and illustrates a story through a lens. No action takes place onstage, but instead we are told about it all via the eloquent tongue of an Australian narrator, played by Jennifer Williams. Her mammoth monologue is almost perfectly executed bar a few understandable stumbles, and she performs with the passion and delicacy of a true storyteller: with rapturous eyes shining like her precisely painted lips, I revert to childhood and listen avidly to the bedtime story about a romance between a British sailor and Australian woman, as it unfolds with drama and detail.

At first, Williams' lone stage presence seems insufficient, and to have more actors appears necessary. As the story progresses, however, this lessens, yet I still feel that a cross-cutting of scenes or illustration of descriptions along with another actor could have given this the richness and variation it lacks. Chris Williams, a music-playing partner at the side of the stage equipped with keyboard and ambiguous stringed instrument, adds subtle accompaniment to the tale, also singing with Williams at the beginning of the play. Sadly, this partnership does not develop, and leaves me wanting something a little more concrete than the faceless, voiceless people Williams so carefully describes.

'The Cold Clear Elsewhere' is an interesting concept which tackles both unique content and execution: an Australian woman's point of view during the 1940s is a refreshing take on the classic depiction of a wartime Briton's life and how is affected. Coupled with the medium of a story, the play is certainly thought-provoking and individual. With the addition of other actors and just a little more diversity, this genuinely intriguing love story could be one to melt or break your heart.


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