Gazing At A Distant Star

Sian Rowland
Greenwich Theatre
Greenwich Theatre (studio)

Serin Ibrahim and Harpal Hayer Credit: Warren King
Serin Ibrahim and Harpal Hayer Credit: Warren King
Victoria Porter and Serin Ibrahim Credit: Warren King

Each year, thousands of people go missing. Many of them leave behind grieving friends and relatives.

Sian Rowland’s play Gazing At A Distant Star gives us three characters who are trying to come to terms with such a loss. It takes the form of monologues with an occasional brief interaction.

Arun (Harpal Hayer) works in a call centre. He yearns to be studying accountancy at university. Instead he feels it necessary to work for £7.50 an hour on a zero-hours contract in a place with "snot green walls".

Between the unsuccessful cold calls he makes for his employer, he worries about the absence for a week from work of his friend Glenn. He recalls a drunken night out with Glenn and a guilty secret about something that happened. Every so often he vows to call Glen but admits he "is not very good on the 'phone".

Anna (Serin Ibrahim) misses her sister Jane who one day vanished, dumping her 'phone, passport and other possessions. Yet she had been so alive, loving her work in school, training for a run, enjoying dancing and talking enthusiastically about Turner’s picture "The Fighting Temeraire".

The crunch for her seemed to be the over-controlling behaviour of her boyfriend Pete. His response to her absence is to get rid of her possessions.

The single mother Karen (Victoria Porter) has no idea why her son Dan disapeared during a supposed holiday with mates in Bulgaria, till police come knocking on her door to tell her he had travelled on to Syria. Her bewilderment and distress is then made worse by Dan’s notoriety as the "Ginger Jihad" who appears with a gun in frightening videos. She hears abusive comments in the street and receives threatening letters in the post.

We never really get to know the reasons why Glenn, Jane and Dan disappear, but then that is how it often is for those left behind.

There are no bright, optimistic strands to the show though one of the characters does receive a positive message, and there is a lot of humour in the script which is delivered by a fine cast. Serin Ibrahim is particularly effective as Anna shifting emotionally between celebrating and missing her sister Jane.

However the play does leave us with downbeat stories of grief and guilt that take a similar and not very surprising journey and importantly never really probe a world where such things happen.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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