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JOURNEYS: a lovingly bizarre yet completely accessible production

JourneysBest appreciated by those who travel on the railways on a regular basis, or just often enough to know what it is to experience delays and cancellations at short (or even no) notice, Journeys begins so rapidly it is no wonder that the frenetic pace of the opening scene could not quite be sustained all the way through. Within the first minute, a number of irritating elements of the railway travelling experience are laid bare, including the overcrowding, people talking too loudly about matters that really should be discussed more discreetly and in confidence, and others who are clearly not looking where they are going. I was already hooked, being someone who experiences these sorts of issues on an almost daily basis – few topics are more relatable.

There are more words used than I was initially led to believe from this show’s press release – though, to be fair, the cast (Genevieve Dunne, Andrew Hollingworth, Rob Taylor-Hastings and Rosie Ward, who between them play so many characters I could not possibly recall them all) are performing a play, not dancing a ballet. Some elements within the show become a tad too repetitive, and a scene involving a painter and critical appraisal of his work had a predictable outcome, but was enjoyable nonetheless in its pithy assessment of what or what doesn’t constitute masterpieces of modern art.

Looking more deeply, there are some telling metaphors about rail travel that came to mind, and everyone going the same way, as though passengers are under pressure to conform. I am reminded of a lady I worked with some years ago who related an apparently true story of her father queued up with her on the approach to a staircase leading up from a platform at London Bridge Station to the station concourse. Without warning he started bleating like a sheep, “Baaa, baaa!” to indicate how the thousands of commuters passing through were being treated very much like livestock.

I relate that story, which technically has nothing whatsoever to do with the show, as an example of how the play, in its use of physical demonstration more than talking heads and the power of words, allows the minds of its audiences to wonder, but in ways that are still in keeping with the themes of the show. I do not know whether it was intentionally an interpretative piece of theatre, but there was a near-constant stream of connections I found myself making between what was happening on stage and experiences elsewhere I have either undergone myself or heard about or read about somewhere.

Following proceedings, with so much physical theatre going on, is very easy, with no idioms or turns of phrases to get one’s head around. While very amusing, the style of humour deployed will not be to everyone’s taste, as things had a slight tendency to get ridiculously silly and nearly senseless. But, get into the spirit of proceedings, and there’s much to be enjoyed in a play that has a palpable ‘fringe factor’ to it.

The final scenes, I must say, were completely unexpected, and (metaphorically) knocked me for six, and in a good way. There was effective if sparing use of projections to introduce some other scenes, but the ones used in the final scenes were particularly touching, the penultimate scene firmly putting my own complaints about road and rail transport in the Greater London region into perspective, and the final one simply altogether heavenly. A play full to bursting with people from different walks of life (yes, a bit like a commuter train) and scenes from different parts of the world, this is a lovingly bizarre yet completely accessible production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Journeys is a fast paced, physical comedy that romps along through a series of farcical stories, each ridiculous and occasionally poignant. A soldier, an artist, an actress and a housewife, each running from the past, embark on a journey across a war-torn landscape, experiencing misfortune, mishaps and mayhem, whilst forging new and loving relationships.

JOURNEYS – CAMDEN FRINGE 2016
1st August – 6th August 2016. Mon-Sat, 7.30pm.
Book Tickets £7 / £5 concessions.
https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/

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