A sunken stage in the round recalls the island topography of Tristan, where Bill (Cyril Nri) first feels the volcanic tremors while swimming in the caldera. Ian William Galloway’s video design evokes the sometimes harsh external forces of the island, while, a bit predictably, long strips of fabric stand in for water. Director Jennifer Tang smartly creates a character out of the island through live vocals from the talented Shapla Salique, and allows Ruth Chan’s bare, aching music to texture the landscape.
Archie Madekwe and Kirsty Rider in Further than the Furthest Thing at Young Vic. Credit: Marc Brenner
But the sparseness of the stage, some meandering dialogue, and copious plot points make the first act feel adrift. After leaving the island to work in South Africa, a restless Francis (Archie Medekwe) returns to his Aunt Mill (Jenna Russell) and Uncle Bill with an unlikely guest: an enterprising Mr Hansen (Gerald Kyd) who, rather implausibly, wants to build a factory on the island. Meanwhile, Francis is further unsettled when he finds out his old love, Rebecca (Kirsty Rider), is pregnant. Dizzying drama unfolds too rapidly — Francis impulsively votes against building Mr Hansen’s factory, Bill convinces Rebecca to tell Francis the baby is his, Francis and Rebecca decide to marry — and loses its grip on the audience, even as it culminates in a literal seismic eruption. Rebecca’s labour is strikingly staged and Mr Hansen’s magic tricks are slickly executed, but there’s a muffled quality to the action as if dampened by headwinds, which renders the first half unvaryingly sombre.
Jenna Russel and Cyril Nri in Further than the Furthest Thing at Young Vic. Credit: Marc Brenner
The second act fares better. Now in Southampton and a year later, curved tables and a hanging light are shaped like lifebuoys to portray this new English setting as a sort of raft: life-saving but only temporarily so. Here the actors get the opportunity to breathe life into their characters. Medekwe’s Francis becomes more unhinged, while Russell’s Mill completely anchors the piece. Mill is determined to organise a reconnaissance mission to the island to see if it is still inhabitable for their return. Russell is quietly resolute, tragically so, even as she faces judgments from an English society that deems her ‘simple’ while also preaching the benefits of their so-called modernity, one that’s arguably more isolating than that remote island.
Influenced by the writer’s own mother’s childhood on Tristan, this ‘modern classic’ has a lyrical dreaminess that’s well highlighted in Tang’s production. But Further Than the Furthest Thing is at times uneven and feels burdened by narrative cargo; at the Young Vic, it’s the performances that manage to bring it home.
|What||Further than the Furthest Thing, Young Vic theatre review|
|Where||The Young Vic, 66 The Cut, Waterloo, London, SE1 8LZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
09 Mar 23 – 29 Apr 23, 7:30 PM – 9:35 PM
|Price||£46 - £67|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|