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Preview: Fairview

‘Fairview gets so close to reality it reaches right through the safety curtain’

Cambridge student Alex Picken believes theatre in Cambridge has an identity problem. “What are we trying to do here? Is it light entertainment, a way to pass the time? Or is it, as I’ve always insisted, an opportunity for us all to develop through art? I hear people talk all the time about separating art from artist, but I have always doubted that was really possible, and in no place is this more apparent than in Cambridge. Productions develop from the minds (and hard work) of students who are ultimately working full time on their degree, the same as their peers. The same people I see taking notes in my lectures, I see on stage the next week. I have always had the sense that theatre here demands its audience’s participation implicitly.”

Fairview director, Theo Chen, was drawn to Jackie Sibblies Drury’s script for its uniquely confrontational nature. As Alex describes, “Fairview is a challenging production. It challenges your right to look, to watch, to comment and form opinions about what it is in front of you. It challenges the idea that you are an audience member – an invisible being, passively taking in the action from the theatre seats.

Image Credits: Charlotte Conybeare

“In the run-through I sat in on, costumes were not complete and the set was built up with foldable chairs, but the smooth, natural performances had me enraptured. The main character Beverly Frasier is not as solitary as it first seems. As I sat watching her privately dancing to herself in her kitchen to Never Too Much, as I do with my headphones when making dinner, I slowly became aware of an odd sense of unease. Beverly isn’t really alone. I was right there watching her”.

The naturalistic feel of Fairview is told though the household items in the scenery. Set designer Tungsten Tang uses the opportunity of a domestic setting to utilise the textures seen in real life of paint, fabric and timber. Alex recalls “drawing particular inspiration from the art deco movement of the 1920s reminds me of the ‘20s post-war homes that populate the streets back home. In their ordinary house, the Frasiers in the play have ordinary concerns -they take turns making little digs that reveal long-standing patterns and relationships, things they fear, and things that bother them. Off-stage and on, they feel just like a family. Each cast member interacts with easy familiarity”.

Image Credits: Charlotte Conybeare

In its adherence to the world that we live in, Fairview challenges the status of the audience members as passive bystanders to the action; it questions the concept that a production that is good equals one that is lifelike. As Alex says, “Fairview gets so close to reality it reaches right through the safety curtain. I discussed with co-director Qawiiah Bisiriyu how the play invites criticism and interpretation by its very nature. It compels you to think about the act of watching theatre because it calls so much attention to the fact that it is theatre”.

Fairview is showing from Tuesday 13th February – Saturday 17th February at 19:45 at the ADC. Buy tickets here.

This article is written with many thanks to Alex Picken.