Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Haul Away, May 5, 2009 ***1/2

Haul Away by Glynis Angell & Vanessa Chapple
May 5 to 16, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 5, 2009
Stars: 3 1/2

At the end of Haul Away, for a few moments the audience is still, silent and holding its communal breath. The play is comic-tragic and our journey bounces us between the poignant and the hilarious. We know from the beginning that the central character, a 38 year-old mother of two, will die by the end.

Glynis Angell tells the entire story through the eyes of her clownish, eccentric narrator who speaks with a broad Scots accent as he/she relates the tale of Kaye. The bright-eyed and engaging Angell rapidly shifts persona from her capering, gesticulating narrator to the languid figure of Kaye, supine on her bed.

Angell capably plays all the characters that surround Kaye allowing us to witness their pain and grief. Her mother cannot cope so she avoids her daughter’s sickbed, privately mourning and saying that parents should go first.

Kaye’s sister, the Gatekeeper, returns from abroad to take almost total responsibility for her dying sister and two bewildered children. We hear about, but do not see Kaye’s Beloved, her grieving husband. The only person who maintains some coolness is an efficient carer who buzzes about changing Kaye’s socks and incontinence sheets.

Marg Horwell’s set for this revised production, directed by Vanessa Chapple, provides multiple levels and secret compartments representing elements of Kaye’s life.  The idea has potential but the black rostra are bulky and almost dwarf the performer. Richard Vabre’s lighting is dramatic and evocative and establishes location and time more clearly.

Singer and musician, Fiona Roake, perches high above the stage underscoring scenes with electric bass and percussion. Her moving songs are sung simply but are repetitive in style and are sometimes not well integrated into the story. The relationship between musician and performer is not clear and the focus on the characters and action is at times lost.

Haul Away successfully blends a cheerful acceptance of death and dying with a recognition of the aching despair and searching for meaning that surrounds it. It is a gentle but touching experience.

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