The biggest thing I got from reading Far Away, aside from alarming confusion, was the theme “nothing is as it seems,” especially things (or situations) that seem to be familiar. Any kind of connection my mind assumed about a scene ended up completely misled. The actual truth of the situation was absurd. Churchill presents ambiguous situations several times throughout the play, each time with increasingly alarming results. Even though the play is short, it seems like pretty much every line weighs with ambiguity and further meaning. It seems so open to interpretation, from every heavy line, to the lack of stage directions.
Ben Brantley’s theater review helped put the play into a better perspective for me. He makes a connection between the play and September 11th: “For New Yorkers living in the elongated shadow of Sept. 11, the waking dreamscape of ‘Far Away,’ where the promise of violence broods in even the coziest corners, is bound to feel familiar. Ms. Churchill envisions a world in which nothing, but nothing, is to be trusted” (Brantley). The opening of each scene in the play begins with a kind of familiarity or normalcy. The first scene starts with a child searching for comfort because she cannot sleep, which is a common scenario. But, as young Joan tells her aunt about the shocking things she saw her uncle doing that night, the tension starts to build and we the audience realize something very wrong is going on. I think that with this example, Churchill shows that danger and corruption can emerge from the most unlikely places, including at the home front. It’s almost as if Churchill is metaphorically defining this movement already as a “living nightmare.”
In the next scene we watch as Joan and Todd fall in love while they work on hats for a parade. It all seems harmless enough, there’s even a competition involved for the best hat to be placed in a museum. The last place I expected to see these extravagant hats was on the heads of prisoners in an execution procession. After we learn the type of parade the hats are in, the line that affected me most about the hats was: “Sometimes I think it’s a pity that more aren’t kept…It seems so sad to burn them with the bodies,” then the hats are called a metaphor for life. “You make beauty and it disappears” (Churchill 25), and the hats burn, the bodies burn, and the beauty burns along with it. The last scene is when we realize that nothing is safe, no one and no thing can be trusted. This “movement” has become a war and every creature is subject to it, Joan even talks about the use of gravity, noise, and light as weapons. Harper questions whether her own home actually is a place of safety. No one knows who they can trust or even which side is the “right” side. Harper tells Todd, “I don’t know what you think.” He replies with “I think what we all think” (Churchill 33). What his response said to me was that no one knows where anyone else truly stands; no one knows what anyone else thinks.
Brantley, Ben. “THEATER REVIEW; Where Trust Is Smothered By Violence.” New York Times 12 NOV 2002, n. pag. Web. 28 Feb. 2012. <http://theater.nytimes.com/mem/theater/treview.html?res=9f0ce5d71331f931a25752c1a9649c8b63>.
Churchill, Caryl. Far Away. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2001. Print.