Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Rachel Blackman’s one woman show conjures up many characters in this tale with interweaving stories and an exploration of family commitments and lustful yearnings.
Part of a triptych of plays exploring love and relationships, Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear focuses on the heartbreak of a selfish father who lacks commitment and guts, and repeatedly falls back on the distancing medium of video to convey his thoughts, rather than be faced with the discomfort of face to face contact.
Martin is a man who wants it all – his woman on the side and his happy family life at home. He is self involved, pretentious and without a doubt very attractive. Maxine is feisty, maternal and tired, happy to be out of the house and away from her children for the night. Soraya is an educated woman, away from home, working in a job beneath her capabilities, fleeing from the political turmoil and heartbreak of her homeland. All these characters and more are played with excellent finesse by Rachel Blackman during the course of this tight, well-executed drama. They are well differentiated by the use of simple costume and nicely performed accents. Blackman is a compelling actress – able to chameleon into the very different roles, and taking the audience with her on every step of the journey.
She has excellent physicality – capturing the relentless energy of a precocious six year old as effectively as the polite amusement and distain of the gentle foreigner, faced with her employer’s ignorance. Naturalistic in terms of delivery and tone, there is a nice series of physical outlets, where music and unpretentious dancing serve to illustrate feelings of emotion better than a hundred words. The show is underscored by a soundtrack of carefully chosen music, which adds depth and atmosphere to the scenes but doesn’t intrude and fades into the background as a good soundtrack should.
The central story of Martin’s affair with the young teacher is well told, but at times feels a little familiar and prosaic. Although very much invested in the character of Martin and his family, and wanting to know more, I was most interested in the snapshots of Soraya’s life Having fled from a unnamed Arab country, which could be so many but certainly had shades of the Palestinian struggle or Iranian repression, she was such a wonderful character, gentle and intelligent, and worthy of more stage-time.
All in all this is a beautifully told story by a talented performer, well deserving of attention and praise and standing out from the sea of average theatre that forms the bulk of the Edinburgh Fringe theatre programme.