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Mitchell May gives his thoughts on Foursquare Theatre’s wacky and nostalgic one night only production. 

It’s a sign of the richness and scale of Bristol’s arts scene that a play like Foursquare Theatre’s Half the World Away can fly in under the radar, with only one performance on a drizzly Wednesday evening in the unassuming but charmingly intimate Bristol Improv Theatre.

‘an engaging and extremely funny journey of rediscovery of the joys of childish innocence’

Running just shy of an hour, director Emma Williams’s impressive play makes resourceful use of its set, the interior of a village store in 1997, replete with Fray Bentos pies, contemporary magazines and flying saucers (the sweets, that is). It’s a scene of much physical comedy as we follow a mundane work shift of young shop assistant, Kathy Costigan, amused by her childhood imaginary friend, played by the hilariously energetic Elise Heaven.

Our protagonist is under strict instructions from her manager to build a model cow for the village’s annual cow festival, where the props come into their own. Starting the play with a glazed stare, she comes to reconnect with her carefree and surreal imaginary friend, battling against the oppressive atmosphere of the workplace in an engaging and extremely funny journey of rediscovery of the joys of childish innocence (and the best ways to build a cow out of toilet paper).

With the play being set in the nineties, I am apprehensive about sitting through a nostalgia-fest, but, while the set and music immerse you in the Britpop era, it is not overdone. There’s also a poignancy to the historical setting. We see our protagonist torn between childhood and adulthood. Too young to have real autonomy, she’s stuck in a deadening limbo; she’s matured enough that she is frequently tired of her imaginary friend’s antics, but still with a young person’s insecurity that makes her a pushover to her boss. You wonder what would have become of this character in 2017, in her late 30s. No doubt this was more resonant for many of the older audience members.

The unabashedly wacky nature of this play, if handled differently, would have been a turn-off, but Half the World Away is a fine testament to Paul Dodgson’s deft writing ability and the two actors’ skills and energy. This was an endearing and greatly enjoyable Wednesday evening. Despite the drizzle.

★★★★


What do you think about Foursquare Theatre’s production- thought-provoking and interesting or overly niche? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or catch us on social media.

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