Eastern Angles - The Long Way Home
By David Hart at Haverhill Arts Centre, Thursday, February 25, 2010 on Friday, 26th February 2010.
The regular visits of our regional professional theatre company, Ipswich-based Eastern Angles, are keenly anticipated by Haverhill Arts Centre theatre fans.
Their past triumphs have led us all over the region from David Copperfield's Blunderstone, to MR James' Dunwich and the excavations at Sutton Hoo.
More recently they have tended to look further afield, and The Long Way Home, by Charles Way, despite its deceptively English-looking programme cover, was set in Greece.
Not that that mattered much, because we were watching a timeless story unfold, which could have happened anywhare at any time, and built around the figure of an old woman journeying back to the home of her youth.
Rather like her journey, the play was hard going at times, but produced a rewarding result.
Old Mother (Susan McGoun) and her dog-boy Andreas (Theo Devaney) presented well-focused and moving characterisations which grew on us as the journey progressed and drew us into their very different challenges, cares and aspirations.
Less successful were the two story-tellers (James Bolt and Jumaan Short) who were lumbered with a wide variety of characters who the protagonists encountered on their travels in an often rather meandering script.
Leaving aside manipulating some pointless and ineffective puppets, they also had to dash between story-telling and their four alter egos, with little to help them.
The production is early in its tour and some of the clunkiness surrounding this will doubtless bed in more smoothly as time goes on, but despite two bright performances from the actors the task was rather too great.
Their story-telling was vivid and absorbing, but they failed to create much variety among the supporting characters, with the result that there was very little of the tension and release which is essential to drama, particularly in a 'road' format.
The story-telling technique distances an audience and only towards the end, when the story-tellers were no longer in control, did the play begin to stir our emotions enough, and work towards a serene and beautiful ending.
As always with Eastern Angles, settings were brilliantly inventive and evocative, with some telling effects.
To sum up, the ageless nature of the story and the strong central performances shone through some of the ambient worthiness to reach a satisfying conclusion.
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