Further Than the Furthest Thing
Haunting, beautifully-designed production of Zinnie Harris' play
From ripping out the seating for a powerful in-the-round production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus to the Mad Men-style two-storey 1950s maisonette of A Doll’s House, Dundee Rep has often impressed with its bold, imaginative use of design. The company’s latest outing, a production of Zinnie Harris’ first full-length play, and artistic director James Brining’s swansong for the Rep, employs some 29,000 litres of water to create a visual backdrop that is as striking as it is simple. The usual wide stage is gone, replaced by an apron of water, whose serene ripples are reflected on a huge projection facing the audience.
This staging, created by Neil Warmington in collaboration with water consultant Elizabeth Ogilvie, achieves a beautiful counterpoint to the lyrical poetry of Harris’ play, which is set among the black sands and seabirds of a remote island in the south Atlantic, loosely modelled on lonely Tristan da Cunha. The expansive natural environment of the first half contrasts nicely with the claustrophobia of Act Two, by which time the local volcano has erupted and the island’s residents have been evacuated to a nightmarish, industrial ‘Hengland’ where community leader Bill (Angus Peter Campbell) goes to work in the boiler room of a glass factory while his wife Mill (Ann Louise Ross) finds herself confined to a deckchair in their tiny garden, fretting about the fate of home.
Harris’ play is the very definition of a slow burn, starting with a gently amusing domestic scene and gradually raising and exploring some important questions about belonging, our relationship with our environment and the thorny business of integration. Brining’s haunting production powerfully ramps up the tension, employing increasingly distorted layers of sound to convey the despair experienced by the islanders in their new habitat. Ross is outstanding as the embodiment of the island’s ostensibly naïve values, while Kevin Lennon also gives a strong, moving performance as young Francis, torn between the old life and his embrace of the new possibilities offered by technology.
- Further Than the Furthest Thing, Dundee Rep, until Sat 5 May.