I’m going to be honest like many others have so far in their blogging about this play. It slapped me in the face and left me with a bruise that I’ve never seen before. I can’t really say that I loved this play nor hated it. I also can’t say that I knew entirely what happened…but it keeps popping up in my mind and I think that’s the point. I think that it’s supposed to make the readers question its motives and meaning. So to make this short and to the point, I’ll piggy back off of another post made earlier by Wayne. He posted a video that immediately brought another to mind. So if you don’t mine, sit back, watch both, and tell me what you think. The correlation between the two may not be the clearest in the world, but both are incredibly politically charged and have strong similarities and parallells.

And

Both the video about Far Away and Another Brick in the Wall have an assembly is “prisoners” being walking in a single file line. Only in Floyde’s case it’s a commentary on the school system and other aspects of society. While the overall point may be different, both videos are similar. Another aspet that both videos share is that all “prisoners” have something on their heads that make them uniform. In “Far Away” the prisoners wear large hats. the meaning of this went over my head a bit, but it’s similar to the masks that the kids wear both on the train in the beginning of the music video and in the middle when they’re on the assembly line. In short, both pieces of at stress the fear that is put into those in society. In Far away’s case, fear is found in the immigrants, in the niece both in the beginning and the end, and assumably with the prisoners which are shown briefly. The Pink Floyde video brings up feelings of fear in the viewer by commenting on how strong the  influence of government could be and how far control can go without being recognized.

 

Advertisements

Nothing and No One Can Be Trusted

In a New York Times article, Theater Review; Where trust Is Smothered By Violence by Ben Brantley, he states:

“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.”

Until doing a little research and reading this review, I would not have directly related this play to the feeling the New York City citizens felt facing the tragedy of 9/11, although I did feel that the theme of this play revolved around fear.

Everything Touched is Corrupted

In Caryl Churchill’s play Far Away, we are shown the absolute extreme of what happens when corruption takes over the world. There is a building of the theme of corruption through the text. It starts first with the moral corruption of an adult, a trusted family member, lying to a young girl. Not only is she lying, but she is lying about horrible violent atrocities that are happening right outside the window from where the girl sleeps. This is a fairly extreme situation, but it is on a very small level because it is only happening between two people.

This builds from the moral corruption of one person, to the broader social sphere of the corruption of the company that Joan later works for. Her and Todd want to leave this company, “we could expose the corrupt financial basis of how the whole hat industry is run, not just this place, I bet the whole industry is dodgy” (Churchill, 26). We do not know what happens to them or what happens with the company, but we see the sense of corruption growing.

By the end of the play we see that everything in the world has become corrupted. “I’ve shot cattle and children in Ethiopia. I’ve gassed mixed troops of Spanish, computer programmers and dogs” (34). It is disconcerting to list types of people so specifically, from age range, to occupation, to nationality. What is most striking about the final scene is not the corruption of people, because that we can understand, it is the corruption of things and animals. We do not think of animals as being corruptible, that is something that we think of as a shortcoming of our humanity. However, in this world everything that can be touched can also be corrupted.

Does this look corrupt and dangerous to you?

This play is surreal, it is dystopian, and it has a little absurdist thrown in too, but it still has a lot to say about our reality. For as ridiculous and farfetched as the play is, we are not so far off. As it is today we are destroying our world. We may not have gotten plants and animals to fight wars for us, but we are using up the earth and its resources for our own gain. We are using it and we are destroying it. We are the war machine and the earth is defenseless town that every one of our bombs hits. The more corrupt we become, the more we corrupt our entire world.

(Here is a quick link to an article on this play that I really liked. It also makes comparisons too out last class text Homebody/Kabul I didn’t cite it but just wanted to share it. www.villagevoice.com/2002-11-12/theater/when-we-dread-awaken/2/)

Churchill, Caryl. Far Away. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2001. Print.

Churchill’s Far Away

Far Away by Caryl Churchill was nothing less than confusing for me.  Throughout the entire play, the world as Joan knows it slowly shifts into a manic depression where chaos begins to surround everyone and everything.  What starts out as righteous beatings in a shed escalates to public executions, which seem primarily focused on spectacle rather than punishment due to prisoners wearing hats made for them.  Furthermore, the brutality of these events seems to be overshadowed by the job that Joan and Todd have of making hats and winning competitions of “Best Hat.”  No regard is held for the people who were just executed, however the hats who are burned with the bodies are held more important to Joan than the actually bodies of the prisoners.  “It seems so sad to burn them with the bodies,” Joan states when talking about the hats with Todd (Act 2, Scene 6). It seems as though Joan and Todd are both blind to the events of public execution that have just took place, as well as the reason behind why they are even making the hats.

By the end of the play, the entire world has turned on everyone and everything within it.  Inanimate objects, animals and nature itself is joining sides trying to find the right side to be on in this war.  The destruction has escalated so far to the point where Joan questions what side the water will be on when she steps into the river, however “The water laps around your ankles in any case” (Act 3).

Churchill, Caryl. Far Away. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2001. Print.

 

“I think what we all think”

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.

Works Cited:

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&gt;.

Churchill, Caryl. Far Away. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2001. Print.

Far Away?

Honestly, I hadn’t the slightest idea what to think about Churchill’s Far Away. Part of me still doesn’t.

I love the absurdity of making hats for (what I’ve gathered to be) prisoners on death row. It’s such a pointless charade much like an inmate’s final meal or the security theater perpetuated by the government in the U.S. The hats are used as a distraction, a way to get the public (and the workers) not to think about the injustices being carried out against the citizens on a daily basis.

The lines that stuck out to me most comes in the beginning of scene 2, pages 17-18.

TODD     You’ll find there’s a lot wrong with this place.

JOAN     I thought this was one of the best jobs.

TODD     It is.

Many might say I’ve been disillusioned by growing up a member of the working class, but there is so much truth in this exchange. I don’t think the U.S. is really at this stage of being controlled just yet, but it seems as though we are headed that way. If there is a lot wrong with something that is supposed to be among the best, then what in the world can be said about what is average, and worse, what is just plain bad?

Oddly enough the play reminds me a bit of the video game Bioshock (light spoilers ahead). The city of Rapture was sold as a utopia in which people could go live (under the sea, of course). Like any utopia, however, society broke down and everything fell apart on New Years 1959, one year before the player comes to find Rapture. In the end, like Far Away, there is a full blown war going on between the survivors, fighting for a drug-like substance called ADAM.

I suppose the main point of all of this is that control only leads to chaos. The government cannot control its entire populous with so heavy a had without expecting it to backfire. The idea of a utopia has the same principle. Utopias will only break down because there are too many rules and expectations for conformity.

Works Cited

Churchill, Caryl. Far Away. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2001. Print.

Not so very far off

After reading, Caryl Churchill’s Far Away, I took a few minutes to figure out what, exactly, I could pull from the text to talk about. Overwhelmed by the absurdism and abstraction, I sought a review, thinking it may have some information I was missing concerning what the hell I just read. “‘Far Away’ Hits Close to Home”, by Clair P. Tan, addressed most of the concerns I had raised in my reading. No, there wasn’t any sort of historical reference. Yes, it is absurd.

Far Away is a minimal piece of absurdist satire, appropriating the disaffection of mass-propagated language in order to speak out against… Well, I’m not entirely sure. It could be war in general, but that seems too easy. Perhaps the current state of politics (Endless distractions/global military presense)? When even noise and gravity and rivers are getting brought into the fighting, the conflict moves beyond global and into the existential. What does it mean to be at war with dogs? Rivers? Countries?

And what of the love story? As understated as everything else in the play, what purpose does it serve? I can see it being a device used by Churchill to humanize the characters, giving the audience something to ground the play in. Indeed, there is a great deal of urgency introduced by Todd and Joan’s relationship (especially in the final scene with Joan… going AWOL?). Besides conflict (in a broad sense), this relationship is the only relatable thing in the play.

Churchill’s dystopic vision is the very essence of politically-minded speculative fiction. It presents a world which is distorted like a fun-house mirror, exaggerating some aspects and diminishing others. Through this particular looking-glass, the prospect of peace seems like a pipe dream; a declaration of war on cats may not be so very far off.