Simon Stephens and Mark Eitzel wrote
A warmly introspective production, beautifully delivered.
Both writers loved Amsterdam for, as Stephens put it, “its beauty and quiet arrogance…history and aloofness." They contemplated the city’s contradictions – espousing both tolerant liberalism and lucrative intolerance – and how it gave birth to New Amsterdam, now New York.
Song From Far Away explores these two worlds by showing a logical hedge fund manager forced to dealing with the emotional turmoil of loss.
It is a reflective memory play in which Willem (Will Young), who lives in New York, takes us on a journey that begins when he hears the news of his brother’s death in Amsterdam. It’s a story that must be painfully close to Young’s heart. His twin brother, Rupert, died recently aged 41.
Willem looks into the void left by a lost sibling from whom he had already detached himself when he moved to the USA. His relationship with the rest of his family is equally strained and he chooses to stay in a hotel rather than with any of them when attending the funeral.
But socialising is not Willem’s forte. Despite living in the Big Apple his is an isolated life. His young niece is the only person he seems to identify with and that is as part of his concern for the state of the planet and what her future is going to be like. His thoughts are rambling, and subjects are touched upon lightly - the lack of depth revealing the superficial nature of his life - but the snippets leave us craving for something more profound.
During his emotional journey Willem sings the occasional line from a song he once heard. It’s not until the end that he sings the whole piece, perhaps as a metaphor that his life is finally coming together, giving him a clearer picture of the future.
Young reveals himself to be an accomplished, sensitive actor, delivering lines with precision and clarity and projecting the softest of reflections in a delicate American accent. No words are lost in his ethereal portrayal of Willem and he has a calm confidence onstage as he moves freely yet purposefully, around Ingrid Yu’s modern minimalist set.
The production is an outstanding example of how set, sound and lighting can complement each other.
Yu hangs stunning curtains from ceiling to floor that move elegantly to indicate scene changes along with a remarkable full-width ceiling panel that rises, falls and angles. Julian Starr has created motifs on the piano underscored with shimmering strings that repeat with variations that reflect Willem’s mindset. Andrew Exeter’s lighting creates and reflects moods and locations.
The effects of their unity of purpose and imagination in enhancing the tone of the play is a joy throughout. There are also some very impressive, yet subtle effects that come as a surprise: at one point, snow falls outside; at another, smoke appears stage left before turning 90 degrees to form a shroud over Willem, then drifts off through the auditorium.
Jameson has created a warmly introspective production that is beautifully delivered. It’s fitting for a play that takes us into the mind of a man confronting the hand life has dealt him, but denies us any tearful lament.