Edinburgh Fringe 2019
In It’s Beautiful, Over There, Stephanie Greenwood relates the death of various members of her broad family tree. But it’s her feelings about the more recent loss of a dear friend that she is really trying to express.
There is a dark secret at the heart of It’s Beautiful, Over There, written and performed by Stephanie Greenwood.
Apparently a piece of storytelling about the deaths of various members of her extended family, at its centre is the suicide of one of Greenwood’s friends.
From early in the piece, Greenwood touches on this deeper story several times, but stops herself. The stories of distant relatives that she tells instead are clearly signalled as distractions (for her rather than for us) – ways not to talk about what is most difficult to say.
It’s a clever premise, well articulated in the delineation of the stage, and lighting and sound are used to great effect here. We can almost see and hear Greenwood being pulled away from that dark place.
Director John-Michael MacDonald deploys a number of theatrical devices and styles to show Greenwood’s attempts at expression and avoidance. There are nice turns of phrase in the writing, some creative movement work in the different stories, a little singing, and an interesting breaking of the fourth wall too.
As Greenwood tells us early on, she has always loved to perform. She is clearly a consummate storyteller, with a strong stage presence and a physical theatricality that MacDonald uses to full effect. However, the resultant style of performance tends to negate some of the vulnerability we anticipate, even in the times when she is finally able to talk about her friend.
There are some poignant moments, most memorably the use of origami swans and a story (and message) that goes with them, but coloured by the overall tone, these too seem a little like distant tales.
There is much to admire in the crafting of this piece, and it tackles an important topic that needs to be talked about and explored. A little rethinking about the theatrical style might enable the heart of the story to be exposed.