This devised production from director Lilac Yosiphon and Althea Theatre’s cast of 8 has some excellent source material in the form of letters about love and conflict but it feels like an end of year showcase with too many ideas that aren’t fully developed and keenness to show all their talents rather than focusing on what makes them talented performers. The small space and uninspired set also didn’t help focus this production.
The main issue is that all the stories are fantastic but there are too many of them. The play covers the last 100 years of Conflict-Two World Wars, Vietnam, Israeli Conscription and Columbia’s ongoing conflicts. As you can see all fantastic ideas but too many and yet also not enough detail in the story. Time is taken up with mime for two lovers; one French, one German, there is a song too. As someone who works in Performance Art examinations, I wondered if I was watching a former examination piece. The large cast doesn’t help, especially as not a single story requires all eight to be on stage at one so we often have actors reacting to what the actors are doing. Stop. If there was no audience this would be fine but we are there and we don’t need to be guided in our reactions by the cast.
What saves this is the performances; in particular Josephine Arden as the fiancee who desperately wants a letter from her partner based in Afghanistan and as the Israeli teacher defending her right not to fight in Israel’s many conflicts and Elizabeth Stretton as the wife desperate to send her husband her touch and as the Welsh widow who receives letters from Cole Michaels’ Russian soldier as he cannot bear to tell yet another wife her husband has passed away. Michaels’ also excelled as Arden’s Afganistan-based fiancee. All of the cast were great when they performed but the truth is some were given more light than others, as shown by exhausted cast members moving straight from one scene to another as unused cast continued to loiter in the background. Carolina Herran’s Columbian asylum seeker was explored with little depth;it was all emotion and no back story and the audience needs the back story to feel emotion. There were also lots of bilingual scenes, some adequately translated, some were not.
This production could be 4/5 stars if it had focused on 2-3 stories, giving all the cast a chance to show their skills but it was disjointed and suffered from what many devised productions do, having too many good sources and little idea how to make them all work seamlessly. This could be a anthology of tales linked by a theme, sadly it just looks a bit messy.