Corpus Playroom, Tues 30th- Sat 4th, 9.30pm
Way Back is an intriguing new work about suicide, depression and grief. However, it managed to balance its exploration of these issues with enough humour to be genuinely enjoyable, as well as thought-provoking.
The play is set in Beachy Head and revolves around Carol (Nisha Emich), a member of the local chaplaincy team, Rodney (Jon Porter), a failed pop-star desperate for attention, and Miles (Gabriel Cagan), Carol’s grief-stricken former boss. The three meet on the high cliffs of Beachy Head, where Carol tries to persuade the two men not to jump. The performance comprised of a mixture of dialogue and interlocking monologues, carefully delving into the minds of these three troubled individuals and exploring their interactions with each other. I was thankful that in the end it avoided offering a trite or saccharine solution to the characters’ problems, instead opting to be bittersweet and gently funny.
Considering how densely emotional the script was, it flowed surprisingly well. The characters’ musings covered everything from the nature of death, to Jung’s archetypes, to the salvific power of music and yet managed to feel natural, spontaneous and utterly unstilted. Instead it was incredibly poignant and intense, dealing sensitively with issues of depression and the grieving process and managing to convey the characters’ deep pain without appearing melodramatic.
However, there were also incredibly funny moments. For example, the awkward three-way date that ended in an explosion of maraca music had me and the rest of the audience in hysterics. These wild changes in mood were somewhat disconcerting, but the bursts of humour made the play more less overwhelming and more engaging,without detracting too much from its depth or intelligence.
The character development must be applauded, with Emich, Cagan and Porter bringing depth and complexity to their roles and playing well off each other, giving the dialogue energy and emotion. While the three main characters started off as somewhat stereotyped figures, with Carol insensitive and well-meaning, Rodney vain and attention-starved and Miles depressed and grieving, through the course of the play they all slowly unfolded, revealing and coming to terms with their histories.
If I have a complaint about this play it is that the set was a little lacklustre. It started off well, with the back of the stage representing Carol’s office, whilst the edges of the stage, covered with green fabric, represented the cliff edges. This had the excellent effect that, when a character was poised to jump, they loomed directly over the audience, gazing out over them into the depths of the theatre. Unfortunately though, the green fabric kept shifting and crumpling, leaving the actors to try and nudge it around with their feet. Whilst this seems like a petty complaint, it did detract somewhat from the flow of certain scenes.
Overall, this is an excellent new play and I look forward to seeing what else writer Daniel Henry Kaes has in store.