Composers and their stage works 

Far Away

Caryl Churchill (2000)

Far Away gradually drifts into a surreal, nightmare future with the entire world at war. It is set in what passes for England, where society has lost its moral bearings and succumbed to murder and violence.

The play opens with a woman, sewing, in a rocking chair. A young girl in a white night-dress enters carrying a forlorn teddy bear and unable to sleep. But the tales that the woman, her aunt Harper, tells are far from comforting; and only under relentless interrogation from the child Joan, will she divulge anything remotely resembling the truth.

Joan is awake because she has hear disturbing sounds. Clear-eyed and horribly calm she asks question after question, and as the tension mounts, it is very obvious that something very sinister is going on outside. Harper is forced to admit to her niece that she has discovered something that "she shouldn't have known about"; that she is now part of a "big movement to make things better."

An abrupt change of pace and scene finds adult Joan working in a hat factory. Everything here seems to be sharp: pins stab at felt and flesh, scissors rip through fabric. Joan meets a young man, Todd and they begin to fall in love. But the hats they make for some nameless, oppressive corporation are actually intended to be worn by a parade of condemned prisoners, shackled in chains, on their way to their execution.

Later we find Joan taking shelter back at her Aunt Harper's home with Todd to whom she is now married. The world they inhabit is a hideously ravaged place in which, as Joan says, "it's tiring because everything's been recruited." Animals kill and people die from coffee, gravity or even light. "Who's going to mobilise darkness and silence?" wonders Joan.

It is a dystopian vision of a world turned against itself and filled with horror and disgust. The Holocaust, environmental issues, ethnic cleansing and the everyday brutality of humanity's disregard for humanity are combined in this often blackly comic drama.