The scene is an Oxford University residence at the end of the Sixties. An era of political and cultural upheaval, of conflict, revolution and challenging of the status-quo. An exciting, exhilarating and troubled time. It is a shame, therefore, that A World Elsewhere manages to convey so little of this heady atmosphere to its audience.
The set is perfect; the battered sofa, coffee table liberally strewn with (pilfered?) books, posters on the walls and Dylan on the turntable all perfectly encapsulate the zeitgeist. You can almost smell the pot smoke. And the themes; love, class, politics, corruption, protest, are all present and correct too. The problem is that the static nature of the play and the stiltedness of the interactions between the protagonists mean that you never entirely feel any of them.
Essentially the plot is this; Toby, a flamboyant literature student, rooms with Chris, a stolid, chippy Northern chemistry student. Toby is friends with Nick, who is in trouble for stealing books, and is also in love with Nick’s sister Pippa. To help Nick and gain brownie points from Pippa he undertakes to blackmail Oxford don Mahew on a charge of plagiarism, whilst at the same time planning a production of Coriolanus using strikers from the local car-plant. Pippa however is falling for preppy Elliot, an American draft dodger and Rhodes student – but is he really all that he seems? Meanwhile Chris, unbeknownst to the others, is facing personal tragedy of his own. The plethora of sub plots means that each individual point slightly loses its impact, and the sheer verbosity of the script is a challenge to even the widest attention span.
The acting is generally very good; Steffan Donnelly plays Toby with superb effervescence and petulance, Dan Van Garrett is a touching and believable Chris and Michael Swatton an intense Elliot.
Someone who has lived through this era would probably find much to recognise and relate to in A World Elsewhere, and as a nostalgia piece I imagine it works quite well. The potential is there for it to become something really good; whether that something would be a comedy, a tragedy or a drama, I’m not quite sure.
Review by Genni Trickett
A WORLD ELSEWHERE By Alan Franks
Directed by Sally Knyvette
Designed by Sarah Jane Booth
Tuesday 21 January – Saturday 15 February 2014
Times: 7.45pm Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm Sundays
Venue: Theatre503, 503 Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BW
Box Office: 020 7978 7040
Tickets: £15 (£12 Concessions), pay what you can on Sundays
Wednesday 5th February 2014