Review: Far Away (Bad Dress Productions)


A convoluted play exceptionally acted, Far Away is playing at Toronto’s Dancemakers and the Centre for Creation

I had never seen a show written by the playwright powerhouse Caryl Churchill before. My friend and plus-one prepared me by stating that the show was, without a doubt, going to be confusing. So when I sat down to watch Far Away (Bad Dress Productions) at Dancemakers and the Centre for Creation, I was ready to lose myself in Churchill’s strange dystopia.

Far Away does not follow the path of the average story. Most stories begin in a place of confusion and conflict, then unravel into a neat conclusion. Far Away begins in a place of confusion and continues to tangle as the play goes on. There are no clear explanations. There is no clear conclusion. The play simply takes a rest in its twisted state.

The first act begins with a young Joan, played by Kate McArthur, at her aunt and uncle’s house. The girl admits to her aunt Harper, played by Farah Merani, that she snuck out of bed to see what was outside, only to discover a horrible secret. With childish innocence, the girl describes seeing her uncle take scared people out of a lorry, push them into a shed, and beat them until they were bloody. The aunt counters this discovery with adult wisdom: the uncle was helping the good people and the people he hurt were bad. Even though it sounds suspicious, there is the setting of right and wrong.

The lines get blurred further in the second act taking place in a factory. Joan and Todd, played by Kate McArthur and Kevin Kashani, begin a flirtatious relationship while making hats for the weekly parade. The sweetness of the budding romance and creative styles of the hats are contrasted at the day of the parade. A twist that rivals The Lottery made me jump in my seat. And then the scene fades to the third act.

The performance by the cast really shines in the second and third act. McArthur and Kashani dilute the tension of their mysterious setting with their banter in the hat making factory. I was impressed that they could make me switch between feeling uneasy and then comfortable within seconds. Whereas Farah Merani stands out in the third act with her righteous ranting. Merani’s energy radiated throughout the spacious theatre.

Act Three shows the complete distortion of right and wrong. The rules from Act One are intensified. There are not just bad people, but bad countries, bad animals, bad things. The enemy is everywhere and always changing. And even the characters seem to be confused by their own mode of logic and explanation of right and wrong. How could you side with the crocodiles? How could you support the Latvian dentists?

As absurd as the arguments seem, the play really resonates with our paranoid world. Who is the new enemy? Where is the new war? Even the idea of having enemies that aren’t even people exists in our reality. The war on drugs, the war on terrorism, the war on trans-fats, are examples that show that we pick our enemies even when they can’t fight back. I felt like the play surprisingly reveals our human need to label good and evil. We want to simplify things into two teams, when it doesn’t simplify anything. Far Away shows that our categorization complicates and tangles, which is why you will leave more confused than ever.


Photo of Kendra Mellifera, Giuseppina Fazio-Morris, Jonathan Phillips, and Shreyas Sukumar, by David Poon and Bad Dress Productions.