Writer: Siân Rowland
Director: James Haddrell
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
When someone you care about goes missing, how do you move on? How do you grieve, find closure, or make sense of things when you are constantly in limbo? In Siân Rowland’s Gazing at a Distant Star, Karen, Arun and Anna each exist in their own space, tangentially connected, all trying to make sense of a loss in their life.
The set is simple and effective, all stark white with multipurpose props. As each of the characters is introduced their story is slowly revealed to the audience, sometimes in isolation and sometimes overlapping, as the unifying theme emerges. Despite Rowland’s efforts to link the three stories, however, each time they touch it feels clunky, coincidental and slightly forced. The transitions are awkward, with lighting cues that are unclear and add little, and the theme fitting some plot strands more than others.
Although it is a heartfelt piece, Gazing at a Distant Star often fails to hit the mark. Harpal Hayer’s Arun is hard to hear in the intimate space, with the socially awkward and self-styled geek falling foul of unclear diction. As Jane’s bully boyfriend Pete he offers more intensity and there are moments of touching vulnerability, but overall Arun feels underpowered with muddied intentions. Jenny Delisle is committed as Karen, but the character feels very one-note, highly strung and anxious with little variety in the text to work with. By contrast, Serin Ibrahim’s Anna is sincere, sympathetic and moving every time she speaks. The juxtaposition of her determination and grief is compelling enough for a one-woman show about her character’s experience, with Anna’s story clear cut, rounded and emotionally engaging. Ibrahim’s performance is affecting and impeccably intentioned, drawing the audience in and squeezing every ounce of empathy from the script.
An important subject that gets far less attention than it deserves, the impact of people going missing is a deep well with plenty to be explored. Rowland’s play has all the right elements, but would benefit from their being more successfully combined.
Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed