Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Missing, lost, disappeared from our lives. Where could they have gone? Why did they not tell us? These questions keep nagging the minds of those left behind when their loved ones disappear. A void filled with fear, anxiety and longing takes over. The play explores these emotions with great sensitivity in Gazing at a Distant Star.
Written by Sian Rowland and directed by James Haddrell this is a hard-hitting piece. It is a well written and convincingly acted play about the predicament of the people who are left behind when someone very dear has gone missing.
The story revolves around the lives of three unfortunate people Arun, Anna and Karen whose loved ones have disappeared from their lives. Arun works in a call centre, saving to go to university. He is desolate and frustrated at the empty responses from his calls. His colleague Glen has been missing for over a week and he feels wretched, wondering what happened… Anna’s sister Jane met up with Pete and never came back. Perhaps the most tragic is Karen who was under the impression that her son Danny was on a vacation.
Brought by Greenwich Theatre the play has simple sets and revolves around a small cast of three. The austere set consisting of office table and chairs are ideal for the grim narratives. The bright lights allow a close view of faces of the three protagonists, as they tell their sad tales. The director James Haddrell handles the gravity of the situation with a certain sensitivity. He allows his actors a freedom to enact their stories differently. However it takes a few minutes in the beginning to get the complete attention of the audience.
Jenny Delisle’s (Karen) emotive performance as the grieving mother is outstanding. Her wet eyes and the hurt in her voice reveals the depth of her grief. The writer excels in creating this character and makes it the most convincing story. The close bond between mother and son Danny is highlighted and beautifully portrayed. Moreover the fate of her child is probably the most tormenting and least expected. Her traumatic monologues will definitely move the audience. It is Delisle’s sterling performance that carries the play.
Both Serin Ibrahim and Harpal Hayer do well in their interpretation of Arjun and Karen. Arjun’s awkwardness is obvious even when he answers the telephone at the call centre. He recounts the happy occasions of Pizza nights shared with his missing friend Glen with some enthusiasm. Somehow his loneliness creeps into his voice every time he speaks.
Serin is greatly traumatised by her sister Jane’s disappearance and feels she could realize the magnitude of her problems. She refers to the fact that her sister was full of life and great fun until she met Pete and suddenly disappeared. In her constant dialogues with Luca she talks about the family bond she shared with her sister and admonishes her herself for maybe being self- indulgent in her teaching and dancing life.
The common thread that binds them is their guilt, with a numb feeling, that maybe they could have done something to prevent this from happening. Loss is a universal feeling and many in the audience will be able to relate to it. I particularly recommend this show for Jenny Delisle’s touching performance, the strong direction and the well realised, hard-hitting emotion of the piece.