Raft

Drifting down the river is a rather appropriate metaphor for describing the experience you have when watching this show. It’s a generally pleasant smooth journey with nice things to see, but there are the odd rough patches where things get difficult.

The play’s overall tone is often very dreamlike and even absurd, with the confusing and often circular dialogue making the play feel at times like a waterborne Waiting for Godot.

Raft tells the story of two sisters who have decided to abandon the modern world, exemplified by the city, to live a simple life sailing down a river on a raft, but their idyllic world is threatened by the arrival of a stranger unaccustomed to their ways. The play is aimless, but in a good way – the dialogue is both lyrical and surreal, wavering in and out of seemingly unrelated topics. Hidden within these odd conversations about stars, darkness and trash in the river are small intriguing nuggets of information that build up a picture of the strange worldview and almost religious reverence the sisters have for the river.

The actors are all capable and incredibly energetic performers; in particular the sisters played by real life sisters Emily Kitchens and Lisa Kitchens have a fantastic rapport and chemistry on stage that makes you really believe these are people who’ve spent an incredibly long period of time in each other’s company. The play’s overall tone is often very dreamlike and even absurd, with the confusing and often circular dialogue making the play feel at times like a waterborne Waiting for Godot.

But there are a few rough rapids on this otherwise peaceful journey. Occasionally the characters’ tangents and repetitive lines can become slightly tedious, and neither the tech nor the actor’s physicality ever quite rise to completely immerse us in the idea the characters are adrift in the middle of a massive constantly moving river. Even with this in mind, the show still has much to recommend it.

The themes and ideas, though sometimes lost between the waves of the dreamlike dialogue, are interesting and nicely reflect the play’s setting. Is it better to allow life to carry you and in effect give up on making choices, or to plant yourself on dry land and face the consequences of being truly free and having to accept the effects of your decisions? In the end Raft is a strange, surreal and often odd journey down the river that I would recommend you hop on for.

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Faith. Home. Kin. This is the slanted tale of two sisters adrift, journeying away from the chaos of modern life. With folk songs, rough rapids, night-time wonderings, and a yearning for home, this sparse, poetical play is a newfangled American folktale. Written by Emily Kitchens and joined in performance by her real life sister Lisa Kitchens, Raft was featured in the 2015 East of Edinburgh Fest at 59E59 in New York City. The Group Lab, a theatrical collective, produces this exciting new work. www.thegrouplab.com

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