Song From Far Away at the Young Vic
Simon Stephens – the playwright who penned the award-winning Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – has his first original play debut to glorious applause at the Young Vic theatre in London. Song From Far Away is the tale of one man’s struggle to cope with the loss of his brother, which is told through a series of letters read to the audience and performed solely by Dutch actor Eelco Smits.
Smits has his work cut out for him, as Song From Far Away is essentially a one-man show with one long monologue that is performed on a minimalist set, so there is little to engage the audience’s senses except the solitary actor on stage. There is a small glimmer of greatness in Smit’s performance that, at times, is utterly heart-breaking and encapsulating, but he seems to lack an on-stage presence that could have truly defined the play as something spectacular. Even after Smit strips down to his birthday suit, engaging moments are few and far between, and the novelty of the theatrics wears off pretty quickly.
The bare-bones set – ascetic in design – serves to accentuate the character’s ever-increasing loneliness, but surprisingly, also moulds itself around the intricacies of the story. For example, when Smit is imitating a dead body within the confines of a coffin, the window ledge and walls transform into that very same coffin without the set changing in any way. On a slightly more negative note: at times, the lighting of the set is a little too dim, and sometimes it is necessary to squint in order to focus on what is happening. This is a shame, because the low-lighting instills a tranquillising effect, leaving the audience more susceptible to the play’s more melancholic moments.
Song From Far Away is a great effort from all involved, and it certainly strives to be something better than it actually is, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad play. It seems to try too hard to convey a message, and in this endeavour, that same message becomes convoluted. Ss a tale of dealing with loss, it is an intriguing insight into one man’s personal and solitary journey – and that’s how it should be viewed.
Song From Far Away is on at the Young Vic from 2nd until 19th September 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Song From Far Away here: