Zinnie Harris’ play premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2000, where it won a Fringe First Award, and received critical acclaim. Twenty-three years on the show is back, in a new production at the Young Vic.

Credit: Marc Brenner

Set on a remote island and based on real-life events on the island of Tristan da Cunha, Further Than The Furthest Thing centres around the islanders. Bill is the island’s minister, and Mill, is his wife, together they live simple lives on the island. Francis, their nephew, has just returned from a year away in Cape Town and has brought with him, Mr Hansen a businessman who wishes to build a factory on the island. The final character of this five-hander is Rebecca, who is in a relationship with Francis, she has become pregnant during his absence.

Harris’ script gives the islanders a distinctive way of speaking, in which they place an ‘h’ in front of words which begin with a vowel – thus, egg becomes H’egg, England becomes H’england and so on. However, the islanders all seem to have different accents, Rebecca has an Irish accent, Mill has a Scottish accent, and Bill has a West Country accent, which seems counterintuitive, when they are all speaking in the same dialect – creating a lack of cohesion.

Visually the play is stunning, light, sound, and set design work in harmony to create an intense atmosphere. The in-the-round staging adds intimacy to the performance but also means that at times some theatrical magic is slightly lost as we can see from every angle, hence are able to see how certain components are accomplished.

Ian William Galloway’s video design includes a motif of wavy shapes projected onto the floor, which is repeated a few times throughout the show. This serves as a reminder of the remote island location, and the exposure to the elements, which reinforces the uncalm, ever-changing atmosphere.

Credit: Marc Brenner

The scenes are very lengthy, resulting in the play feeling drawn out at times, dragging towards the end of each Act. Jennifer Tang’s production also feels unchanged from previous iterations, the topic of displacement feels as sadly relevant today as it did during and after the War, therefore the production could have been brought up to a modern-day setting, and may have had more of an emotional impact upon the audience.

The performances are what draw the piece together, Jenna Russell particularly shines as Mill, showing almost childlike wonder whenever Mill is taught something new. Cyril Nri’s portrayal of Bill highlights the character’s naivety and desire to help others.

Further Than The Furthest Thing is most powerful in the moments which aren’t spoken. The creative elements speak louder than the words in Harris’ script to convey the message of the play. Although there are compelling moments which captivate attention, on the whole, there are too many moments in which the play’s pace meanders. Plus there is a need for a more satisfying ending as it feels rather anticlimactic in its current form.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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