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Back To Where by Colin James at the Jack Studio Theatre

Back To Where - Photographer credit Colin James
Back To Where – Photographer credit Colin James

A coffee shop sits stage right, there’s a bedroom stage left, and in the middle, a tent. Taken together, this made the studio stage space seem larger than it really is. Back To Where is a curious show title with a curious set. The first curiosity is easily resolved by watching the show: at some point, somebody says they want to go back, but as they haven’t been entirely clear, the question is then asked, “Back to where?” The second arises from dramatization of flashback scenes – while the main story takes place over the course of one night, from dusk to the following dawn, context to how Jane (Hannah Hawkins) and Will (Vincent Andriano) came to be where they are at this point in their relationship.

The connecting scenes, then, break up what would otherwise be two people in conversation with each other, without sufficient background for the audience to follow proceedings easily. There is much attention to detail, both with regards to the set (the coffee shop even has a price list) and the dialogue. Jane is a lawyer, and Will is a film director; the way in which their career paths have gone means that Jane is the higher earner. Will’s borderline ballistic response to Jane breaching a ‘no mobile phones’ rule on this weekend camping trip proves relatable for any theatregoers who have attended a show previously where a phone went off mid-performance.

Various narrative devices are used to draw out information, including a game of ‘Never Have I Ever…’, which eventually descended into a row, and talk between the duo of a dream holiday (the Epcot Theme Park at Walt Disney World is not my personal idea of fun or romance, but each to their own). I can’t put my finger on any one ‘critical incident’ that radically changes the dynamic of the relationship, and thus the show. Instead, incremental storyline twists arise, and sometimes there are accounts of what hasn’t happened as opposed to what could have been. No infidelity here, thank you, they’re British – or at least one of them is.

It seems to be a rite of passage for many young Australians, like Will, to spend some time in the United Kingdom: the most usual visa held is the Youth Mobility Scheme visa, for those under the age of 31, valid for two years. There are very limited options for these people to extend their stay. But this is not (spoiler alert) a straightforward case of Will marrying Jane simply to stay in the country – they were in a relationship already.

The bickering that goes on is normally the sort of thing that is really quite dull, at least for an audience sat in the theatre watching it. Here, though, the intensity of the situation, which has been quietly building up as the show progresses, means this is a most watchable full and frank exchange. Yes, it’s difficult viewing, but not because it is uninteresting – quite the opposite. Being able to see things from both perspectives is, I think, what makes it as compelling as it is.

Some dark humour is to be found as both parties try their best to please the other whilst also trying to assert their viewpoints. A very raw, very authentic plot is delivered with tour de force performances from highly capable actors who convincingly portray characters that go through the depths of despair and the heights of affection, and every human emotion in between.

4 stars

Review by Chris Comaweng

Visa marriages aren’t meant to last forever, but English Jane and Aussie Will aren’t your average couple. In order to escape their various personal issues and the distractions of their daily lives, a well meaning Will plans a romantic camping trip … A camping trip that goes disastrously wrong.

Stranded and lost in the idyllic Welsh Countryside with no food, water or matches and losing daylight Will and Jane have nothing but a few warm Bacardi Breezers and their own demons for company. Back To Where is a dramatic comedy and is the first play by New Tricks Theatre, written by Colin James, based on improvisations by Vincent Andriano and Hannah Hawkins.

Back To Where
Listings Information
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
https://brockleyjack.co.uk/

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