Fear and ambiguity in CU’s Far Away

An ambiguous future that uneasily reflects the present:  CU’s Far Away onstage January 30 – February 3 in the Loft Theatre

Fear and ambiguity haunt the dystopian world of British playwright Caryl Churchill’s Far Away.

And that’s just the way director Andryn Arithson wants to keep it.

“There is a lot of room for interpretation,” says Arithson, who is pursuing a master’s degree in both Theatre and Business. “It takes place in an apocalyptic future that feels dark and dangerous. Modern technologies seem to no longer exist, or at least are not at the disposal of the masses.”

Though futuristic, the world of Far Away is uneasily evocative of the present, portraying a world in which unspoken horrors take place offstage and even nature is at war with itself. Yet it’s also laced with black humor.

In the opening scene Joan, a young girl visiting her aunt and uncle, witnesses a violent act but is sworn to secrecy.

Years later she and a colleague work for a company making hats to be worn by government prisoners paraded to execution. The vast majority of hats are destroyed with their doomed wearers. But one is always saved for posterity, and when Joan’s design is chosen, it raises uncomfortable moral and social questions.

“It’s partly about working for a system that is not your advocate, the way that most of us end up doing to some degree in our lives,” says Arithson, noting that the Occupy Wall Street movement informed her decision to direct the play, which was written in 2000.

In the final act, Joan and her husband engage her aunt in an almost surreal conversation about the all-encompassing war that has broken out following Joan’s dangerous journey home.

The story is evocative of other imagined futures in such works as The Hunger GamesThe Giver and Fahrenheit 451The Guardian calls it “a wake-up slap to the face, as we sleepwalk towards a future in which governments have played on terror to make us fear ourselves.”

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