Week #44 Away: a play
by SJ Finn
I go to the theatre a lot but rarely, since beginning my blog, have I had cause to write about the plays I see. Michael Gow’s play Away, however, is an exception, proving on all counts – script, movement, acting and set, to name a few – to be an exceptionally good creation.
Set in 1968, and written in 1986, Away delivers ‘the ache’ of what was going on in Australian households at the time. Digging at the themes of loss and lack of control over our lives, both politically and emotionally, it provides a picture of what was preoccupying us during a time when conscription to fight in Vietnam was occurring and a secure income was valued over everything else, including enjoyment. We are reminded that, of utmost importance, was the art of ‘getting on with things’ rather than any analysis of our troubles. They are emotional tribulations that, if not still played out today, ring with resonance regardless in our modern lives.
Part of what makes this a theatrical experience worth seeing is that there is no other medium that could portray this piece as well. In other words, you know why you’re sitting watching theatre. And it’s all about the script. The meshing of words, not so much through dialogue but by layered repetition, builds the play into a palpably-emotional testimony of each character. It combines humour and rancour, pathos and pity to create heartfelt anguish in the viewer. Even ‘the movement’ in the play – the dancing and choreographed progressions – adds to the emotional drama, the enthralling content.
Both The Malthouse (where I saw the production) and Michael Gow are to be congratulated. This is a play that should and hopefully will, be resurrected again and again, and since it’s already a pingback from the 80s, I’m presuming it will be.