By Ana Ingham
Peterborough, England: Remus House Limited Editions, 2008
208 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
March 2009

Ana Ingham gives us very human and often touching dialogue. These four short plays are also rich in human understanding. There is no direct line of contact among the four plays; quite the contrary they are very different in content, time and geography. Each is about 50 pages long and the diversity of time, place and theme was significant.

Of the four plays I leaned especially toward the first play, “Le Grand Voyage.”

This touching play opens in a garden, seemingly of some sort of old folks home. Bob, an elderly and very ill man is sitting with Charlotte, a young woman visitor from France. She is seemingly a grand-daughter or grand-niece of a woman Bob had met in France many years earlier. Charlotte is reading from a letter speaking of this earlier period. Author Ingham uses a clever staging device for these flashbacks to the time the letter speaks of, shortly after WWII. Actors from that period come onto to the stage and carry on the dialogue to which the letters refers.

At first I was a bit put off by this device of dual times, but quickly got the hang of it and enjoyed it a great deal. There were many very short scenes, and the play reminded me more of a series of snapshots which spark a memory for us, that a home movie, trying to capture the details of a single event.

The play is actually set much more in that early post-war period than the present, and the present day characters have few lines.

I enjoyed the play and was moved by it. I did find the two major surprises which arise near the end to slightly push the edges of credulity, but upon more reflection I accepted them and came to like the play a great deal.

The second play “Snowy Night” created a sort of nervous tension in me which seemed either what the author would have wished or at least how I would have responded were this a real situation.

Ranya, the former fiancé of Pierre, comes to his house after years of no contact. She’s had and may still have cancer. Pierre is in a failing homosexual relationship with Paul, a much younger man, about to leave him for an artist.

There’s lots of sadness in the air, and much is left unsaid that the characters wished they could say, yet one gets the feeling there is little in any of the three characters which takes relationships seriously, yet they seemingly have strong desires that they could find such a thing. They just don’t seem to know how, nor how to give enough of themselves to create such a joy.

This is a very sad and convincing play.

I enjoyed the generational gap between the 19 year and 60ish fellow in “Astronaut from Finland.” The dialogue and lifestyles leading to different perceptions often reminded me of conversations with my own children.

Dulo, a 19 year old Moroccan, living illegally in England, has stowed away in the cabin of Pentii, a Finnish former astronaut. Pentii is on his way from England back home to Finland, presumably to die. Some 30 years earlier he had actually visited the moon as an astronaut.

The play takes place in that stateroom and is a fascinating conversation between the two. Dulo is trying to convince Pentii to help smuggle him into Holland, something Pentii doesn’t think is possible, and is very skeptical of trying. In the course of the play each reveals a good deal about himself to the other.

The conversations are interesting, even grabbing and very human. Tension is in the air at all times and the inconclusive ending is quite effective.

“Delicate Perceptions,” the last of the plays was more difficult for me to envision as theater.

This is a play about a woman, Olga, who is searching for meaningful experiences and love. When she finds moments of meaningfulness she captures them in poetry. But, she doesn’t seem to be able to hold onto that meaning, and drifts away from one meaningful experience to another. Each is short-lived as she is unable to sustain it. However, after each affair she captures the essence of that particular moment in her poetry. Perhaps, for me, this was the saddest character of any in the four plays. Somehow she was not able to achieve lasting, loving human contact, but only to find such contact for moments, yet to immortalize those experiences in her heart with her poetry, then moving on to search yet for other meaningful moments, never able to seize and sustain them, having to be satisfied with her poetry.

What troubled me in trying to see this as presented on state was the role of poetry. At the end of each “episode” Olga has, and there are several, she captures it in a very short poem. Each time when I READ the poem, I would pause, go back reading it again, reflect on it, then re-read it again. And in each case I then appreciated the poem. I think a theater audience would have a nearly impossible time doing that and thus difficulty appreciating the fittingness of each poem.

While the plays are quite diverse in time, place and theme, there are some recurrent themes, including a character with some serious, if not terminal illness; the theme of homosexuality and two of the four plays feature poetry as part of the plot.

I came away from the volume thinking I would enjoy seeing these plays staged, but like the intimate pieces they are, and given the short and distinct pieces they are, I’d want them one a night, in some very intimate place, if not my living room, followed by some wine and quiet discussion of the lives and actions of the characters. Ah, yes, and I would want printed copies of Olga’s poems that evening to read aloud again as we discussed the play.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett