Further than the Furthest Thing is the story of a community on Tristan da Cunha, a British colony and the most remote inhabited island in the world.
When a volcano erupts in 1961, its people are evacuated to Southampton, England, where they are put to work in a glass jar factory. The play tracks five characters, and the impact this transition from one culture to another has on their lives and relationships. In fact, playwright Zinnie Harris loosely based her work on the actual island of Tristan da Cunha, and the real events which took place when her mother was living there.
First performed in 2000 at The Traverse, what’s so exciting about this modern Scottish play is its potential for interesting set design and interpretation of language. When asked about their first reading of the play, the directors, Jess Haygarth and Aggie Dolan, emphasised how struck they were by the distinct visual descriptions of the island and the glass jar factory, and how quickly they became excited by the potential to create a contrast between the set design of Acts One and Two.
Haygarth also revealed how Further than the Furthest Thing was “very unlike anything [she’d] read before” due to Zinnie Harris’s unique take on the English language and the diction of the islanders. In watching the rehearsal, I could see the extent of the work put in to accurately portray this diction.
Haygarth emphasised how extraordinarily relevant Further than the Furthest Thing is in the context of the world’s current state of affairs. When asked what motivated them to take on this play, Haygarth stressed that “the displacement of people is relevant in a sense with the refugee crisis and Trump’s Muslim ban” and how important they both feel the play’s themes are for contemporary audiences.
Further than the Furthest Thing certainly delves into the ideas of culture and national identity, and asks pertinent questions about the extent to which origin determines your character as an individual and member of a community.
This struggle for identity is at the heart of Further than the Furthest Thing, whose title reflects not only the geographical distance between the island of Tristan da Cunha and the rest of civilisation, but also the stark differences and barriers between the islanders and the English.
These key themes of the displacement of people and community are essential motivators behind EUTC’s production and I am excited to see how this potential for a fresh take on set design and language develops in EUTC’s production.
Haygarth and Dolan’s enthusiasm for what can only be seen as their passion project ensures this production will be performed to its highest potential.
Further than the Furthest Thing
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