Far Away (play)

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Far Away
Written byCaryl Churchill
Date premieredNovember 2000 (2000-11)
Place premieredRoyal Court Theatre
London, England
Original languageEnglish
SettingA woman's cottage, a hat factory, and a post-apocalyptic near future.

Far Away is a 2000 play by British playwright Caryl Churchill. The play has four characters, Harper, Young Joan, Joan, and Todd, and is based on the premise of a world in which everything in nature is at war. It is published by Nick Hern Books.

List of characters[edit]

  • Joan – A woman that works as a milliner designing hats for prisoners.
    • Young Joan is played be a separate actress in some productions.
  • Harper – Joan's aunt, a woman that is hiding a dark secret from her niece.
  • Todd – Joan's coworker and love interest.

Plot summary[edit]

Act 1, Scene 1 begins in Harper's kitchen. It is late. Harper's niece (Young Joan) enters and claims that she can't sleep. After a few attempts by her aunt to get her back in bed, she tells Harper that she just came back in the house after climbing out her window to investigate a sound that she heard. Their conversation continues with Joan telling Harper that she just witnessed her uncle, Harper's husband, loading bloody children and other people into the back of a lorry. After repeated attempts to censor what Joan saw, Harper tells her that he is saving the children and taking them to a safer place. She tells Joan that she can never tell anyone about what she saw because it would put all of their lives in danger. Harper claims they are on the good side and are making the world a better place.

Act 2, Scene 1 is roughly 15 years later in a factory where an adult Joan has just begun her professional career as a milliner. Her co-worker Todd is an established hatter and is experienced in the field. Throughout the scenes you see various days at the factory. The hats that Joan and Todd are making are in various stages of completeness, showing the passage of time. Todd and Joan exchange in basic conversation about this body of work, talking about their previous works. Todd says that the company has been pushing for hats to be created quicker for the parades, stating that they used to have 2 weeks to finish a hat but now they only have 1.

Scene 2: Joan and Todd learn more about each other including a discussion about their current hat designs. Todd brings up a hypothesis that the way the company gets contracts is corrupt, claiming there is a certain person's brother-in-law that is involved. Joan wants to know more, but Todd doesn't want to talk about it at work. Joan changes the topic to not liking to watch the trials at night. Todd says he watches them every night while drinking Pernod, or absinthe.

Scene 3: Todd and Joan speak about different hat genres (Animal and Abstract). Joan changes the subject and asks why Todd doesn't do something (regarding the corruption). He says he spends days wondering what he should do.

Scene 4: Joan and Todd compliment each other on their almost completed hats. Todd claims he is going to talk to "him" (someone working above Todd). He claims that he is going to talk about the brother-in-law and hint at the possibility of leaking information to a friend of his who is a journalist. He claims that if he lost his job, he'd miss her.

Scene 5 shows the completed hats of Todd and Joan on the heads of prisoners being marched to have the hats "judged".

Scene 6 returns to the factory. Joan states that she can't believe that she won. She doesn't understand why more aren't kept, and claims that they could be re-used. Todd says that keeping more hats would put them out of work. Joan thinks it is sad that all the hats are burned with the bodies. Todd says that the hats are metaphorical for life. He is not bothered that only 3 out of nearly 300 hats that he has made it to the museum. He loves making beauty that disappears. Todd brings up his meeting with "him". "He" said, "These things must be thought about". Todd wonders if "he" was talking about the content of their meeting, or if he should fire Todd. Joan reminds Todd about the journalist he knows. Joan hypothesizes that the whole industry is corrupt. She says that if Todd is fired, she will resign. Todd almost tells Joan that he loves her, but quickly changes to saying that he loves beads.

Act 3, Scene 1 finds Harper and Todd at Harper's house waiting for Joan to return. They discuss the paranoia caused by not knowing what side various aspects of nature is on. They are very worried about Joan who eventually returns in a very frazzled state. She delivers a monologue about her fear of every natural thing on her journey (a stream, horses, light, and dark). She does not know whose side of the war they are on.


The main theme of "Far Away" is fear. More specifically, the fear imposed by a government upon its citizens. This fear permeates the work from the smuggling of people by Joan's uncle to the public march of death for prisoners of the government.

The theme is brought to its climax in Joan's final monologue where she describes being so afraid of the duality created by the propaganda of this new world that she has trouble walking home because she can't tell whose side a stream is on, or the grass, or the flies, etc.

Production history[edit]

Far Away was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in London in November/December 2000.

A production of Far Away ran at New York Theatre Workshop in New York City from November 11, 2002 to January 18, 2003. The production was nominated for the 2003 Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Costume Design and Outstanding Sound Design.[1]

Gustavus Adolphus College ran the show for 2 weekends from October 30, 2009 to November 7, 2009. It was performed preceding another one of Caryl Churchill's plays Seven Jewish Children, as well as a response to this play called Seven Palestinian Children by Deb Margolin.[2]

The play was performed at the Theatre Royal at the Bristol Old Vic from 24 May to 9 June 2010. It was directed by Simon Godwin, and starred Annette Badland, Tristan Sturrock and Cara Horgan.

The most recent production was at the UMBC Black Box Theatre from March 9-11th 2018. It was directed by Abigail Funk and Leah White. It starred Jolee Cohen as Harper, Justine Cataneo as Young Joan, Elizabeth Devine as Joan, and Jacob Gross and Samuel Enomanna both performing as Todd.


  1. ^ "Far Away". The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
  2. ^ Behrends, Al (October 16, 2009). "Far Away, Seven Jewish Children, and Seven Palestinian Children begin Theatre Season at Gustavus Adolphus College". Gustavus Adolphus College. Retrieved November 6, 2009.