The Journey to Venice at Finborough Theatre
Memory is a powerful thing. It has the power to devastate one moment, and cause unbridled joy the next. The Journey to Venice explores this idea with a deft touch, cresting the peaks and wading the troughs of recollection in a seamless and engrossing manner.
Staged in the United Kingdom for the first time at the Finborough Theatre, The Journey to Venice won the Ibsen Prize, Norway’s highest award for playwriting, when it first hit the Scandi stage in the early 90s. The play focuses on an elderly couple, Edith and Oscar Tillman (Annabel Leventon and Tim Hardy), who spend their days living through their memories and “travelling” to their favourite destinations, transforming their living room into the mountains – or Venice.
It’s a poignant, touching premise, made so much more emotional by the way in which Edith and Oskar balance their joyful exploration of the past with the difficult reality of life at an advanced age. Complications come in the form of plumber Christopher (Nathan Welsh) and housekeeper Vivian (Charlotte Beaumont), whose unique personalities really shine through.
The text is fantastic: Bjørg Vik (who sadly passed away in 2018) has constructed a set of truly memorable individuals, each of whom contribute their own spice to the dramatic soup. They play off one another, and, in the same way that Edith and Oscar’s decades-old dynamic delves into the minutiae of a couple with a truly deep bond, the relationship between the Tillmans and the younger characters, as they joke, laugh and cry, is equally enlightening.
All of this is helped by wonderful, understated staging and great choices in production design. A projector sat on the kitchen table plays grainy Super-8 footage of the Tillmans’ past adventures, contributing melancholic recollection and the occasional quip. Director Wiebke Green has added another excellent notch to her belt of acclaimed shows.
The Journey to Venice exhibits all the best features of small, intimate theatre. It is truly absorbing, showcasing the talent of a great cast while building a world that it is difficult not to buy into. Anyone looking for a theatrical night out that leaves some time for a post-curtain drink needn’t look any further.
The Journey to Venice is at Finborough Theatre from 28th February until 25th March 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.