Alarm bells should have rung when I realised that Robert Holman, who wrote Across Oka, also wrote the trio of dull plays collectively called Making Noise Quietly which the Donmar recently put on.
Across Oka is not without merit in that there are some well-observed moments but ultimately the lady sat next to me summed it up after the actors had left the stage when she turned and said: 'I'm not sure what happened there'.
And that was the point. The plays dramatic denouement seemed so out of character as to not make any sense.
Rewinding, the play is a sort of musing about life expectations and disappointments. Jolyon (Paul Copley) is interested in a Professor Pavel's (George Irving) work trying to re-introduce the Siberian crane back into its natural habitat. Jolyon dies before he gets to realise his dream to visit the cranes homeland, a journey taken up by his grandson Matty (Matthew Tennyson) and widow Margaret (Marion Bailey) who .
Playwright David Eldridge chose the play for the Royal Court's playwrights' playwrights season because it made him realise you could write family drama and said he was moved by it for reasons we, as the audience, would understand once we'd watched.
I'm still curious as to what moved him. When Jolyon dies their are some poignant moments as Margaret muses on her loss and the inevitable regrets. But once the story moves to Oka, where the cranes are to be reintroduced there are some cultural tensions and the one out of character act from Matty but that is about it.
Perhaps it was stymied by the actors being seated. There is a lot of description in the play text about what the stage should look like and what characters should be be doing. Perhaps too it was hampered by having quite a large cast, being quite a long play and only having a day to rehearse.
Abide With Me, last week, was just over an hour in length and had three actors. It left me wanting to seek out more of playwright Barry O'Keeffe's work, the same can't be said for Across Oka and Robert Holman.