Pros: A strong cast who create complex yet believable characters.
Cons: If, like me, you don’t know a great deal about 1960s American politics then some of the references may be lost.
Located above The Latchmere Pub in Battersea, Theatre503 is a friendly space with comfy sofas in the foyer and a great atmosphere. The theatre itself is larger than I had expected, with tiered seating so a guaranteed good view. The only problem I had was slightly limited legroom for taller theatergoers! I arrived early and had dinner in the pub below: one of the best fish finger sandwiches I’ve had in a while, which was also very reasonably priced!
A World Elsewhere is set at Oxford University in 1968, a world where young American students watched their fellow countrymen head to Vietnam. As I am not familiar with this period of history, particularly American politics, I did feel lost at times. However this is not a criticism of the text. There is an incredibly informative timeline and introduction in the programme which, had I read previously, would have provided useful context. One quote from this that stood out was ‘For us young Brits, The War meant the one our fathers had fought in; for the Americans it meant the one their friends were fighting in’.
The cast are all very strong but Toby, played by Steffan Donnelly, particularly stood out for me. He is brilliant as the privileged Oxford student living student life to the full, a budding activist with his love of Bob Dylan a constant theme throughout the play. Pippa, played by Sophia Sivan, is an intriguing character. Obviously from a very privileged and somewhat sheltered upbringing, it was interesting watching her character develop. Dan Van Garrett, as Chris, a midlands boy studying chemistry, had a comparatively small role, however, he played the part with earnest emotion.
The set was evocative of student living in 1968 with a sofa falling apart, piles of books and records and posters of Dylan and Che Guevara. Scene changes, done by the cast, were seamless with a particularly clever method of demonstrating lecturer Mayhew’s office. I enjoyed the little touches on the set and noticing similarities with my own student houses, including a bookcase equally stocked with wine bottles as with books! The use of music in this play, the majority of it Bob Dylan, worked well in setting the scene. An obvious but fitting choice for the era.
I enjoyed this play despite the fact I struggled to connect with it at times. It perfectly captures a moment in history through the eyes of eager and perhaps slightly naïve students and has sparked an interest in me to further explore this tumultuous time.
Author: Alan Franks
Director: Sally Knyvette
Producer: Theatre503 and World Elsewhere Productions
Booking Until: 15 February 2014
Box Office: 020 7978 7040
Booking Link: http://theatre503.com/whats-on/a-world-elsewhere/