BLUE SKY | STAGE REVIEW
Tues 13 Nov
Words: Rachel Williams
A tiny, overlooked news article catches the eye of Jane, Blue Sky’s intrepid reporter. A man was bundled into a private plane in Karachi and there is only one witness who caught the plane’s tail number. Jane tracks down Ray, an old friend and plane spotter who might be able to help her find this plane, encountering Ana (Ray’s daughter) – blogger, activist and vocal student – in the process. Mina is the disillusioned wife of the missing man and together they follow this plane around the world as it stops off in a multitude of places.
Not quite in the here and now, the play is based in 2003 around the height of the American usage of extraordinary rendition: a way of torturing detainees and circumventing the Geneva Convention. Writer Clare Bayley has evidently done her research as the narrative opens the door to this technique.
The argument over the ethics of citizen and traditional journalism continues to rage, and as bloggers have increasingly powerful voices, Journalists are increasingly questioned on their morals and merits. Jane’s own behaviour indicates that the means are always justified by the end.
The narrative has everything a political thriller could need: the intrigue, vanishing data and information which doesn’t quite add up. It also asks weighty questions of our government’s involvement and a citizens duty to act, but those questions are not strong enough in the play as it focuses on the American plane rather than lending weight to the collusion of western powers. I wanted more dark corners and security forces to add to the tension.
It is the human element of Blue Sky that is the strongest: the endearing, worrisome Ray (Jacob Krichefski) feisty youth Ana (Dominique Bull) and Mina (Manjeet Mann) who is at the end of her tether over her disappearing husband. Longing for the quite life, Ray labels himself a ‘little person’, not important enough to question the government activities – the antithesis to the man who married a Salvadoran activist. Jane, wonderfully played by Sarah Malin, is a stereotypical journalist ground down by changing times, but she still stands by her beliefs and ability to track down a story – Malin portrays her as a tough nut to crack after everything, even the hauntings of a difficult past.
The staging and set are excellent, all available space is used in bringing simultaneous scenes together so that the plot doesn’t stall and we see the desperation and determination of the characters. A small thing, but ingenious, is Ana’s use of lighting as she moves around the stage focusing the point of her torch at Jane when questioning her and flicking the lamp light towards her father as she interrogates him over her mother. All of which alludes to the torture techniques used in interrogations.
A clever ending is included with the play brought smack bang into the present with Ana’s request for Jane’s help over a contact from a military operative – this request also brings Ana and Jane’s relationship to a compromised close, instead of the swapped threats.