For the last three plays in the Fringe Festival I was joined by Mrs Chrisparkle (it was a Sunday after all) dipping her toe into this festival for the first time. Fortunately for both of us, we started with a good one!
Far from Home’s Godspeed, is an inventive and creative one-man play by and with Fox Neal as Ishmael Constant (which sounds like a mathematical law), trained by the military and space authorities to undertake a twelve-year journey to investigate a hole in the universe – The Anomaly. His quest is to go through the hole if possible and see what’s on the other side. He is to report back if he can; he is not expected to return home, so he’ll spend his final days like David Bowie’s Major Tom, sitting in his tin can far from the world. His only companion is a chatty, nauseously upbeat computer whom they christen Virgil; but Virgil isn’t entirely to be trusted. He gives Ishmael regular psychological health checks – and does Virgil detect that our hero might have an alternative agenda? Does that explain his attachment to his crucifix? And will he be able to get through the Anomaly and see for himself what’s there?
Interspersed with this surprisingly exciting story are flashbacks to Ishmael’s childhood, with his warring parents – one religious, one not – and the effect of their unhappy divorce on him; and his time spent in the military, where he meets another trainee, Shay, who calls him her Space Cowboy, but refuses his offer of marriage because she has to go off on tours of duty without him. Mr Neal plays Ishmael centre stage for most of the time, keeping time with a recording of all the other voices in his story, a technical feat of high precision which he achieves brilliantly. Particularly impressive were the recordings of his parents’ muffled arguments, such as a child might hear behind a closed door, and the shatteringly effective last words that Ishmael hears from his beloved Shay.
Mr Neal invests Ishmael with finely observed characterisation; a frustrated, understated, angry, resigned and bewildered man who’s going to do his best for the world if he possibly can – whilst achieving his own private ambition as well. It’s a strong, gripping performance and he, together with all the other entertaining recorded voices from other members of the 3rd Year, keeps us totally engaged in his story from start to finish. This is another production that you could easily pick up and plonk down in Edinburgh where I think it would be a great success. Congratulations all round!