Paul Ashley with permission for Varsity

Fairview is really hard to review. I actually don’t want to tell you much at all about this production, it would be much better if you went to experience it for yourself. I’m normally quite happy to dish out a spoiler or two, but not about Fairview. If you don’t already know Jackie Sibblies Drury’s script, then go into the ADC that way. Experience this play as it happens.

"“I'm sick of the way race addressed, or not addressed, in Cambridge theatre”"

It’s also really important that we pause and take note of how differently people of colour and white people will experience this show. As a white reviewer I had a very specific experience, and that is one that left me reconsidering engrained, racist preconceptions and structures that I wasn’t reconsidering strongly enough before. The play’s use of stereotyping, taken to an extreme specifically designed to make us feel uncomfortable, really did achieve just that. In his wonderful post show discussion, director Theo Chen described how that is the idea. Cambridge, and Cambridge’s theatre scene, is far from perfect in many ways, but Theo talked about being “sick of the way race addressed, or not addressed, in Cambridge theatre”. 

Paul Ashley with permission for Varsity

This production was an early step in changing how I think about Cambridge’s theatre scene, and indeed Cambridge’s failings in addressing its systematic racism, and I hope it has a similar effect on white theatre goers and theatre makers. Simultaneously, I hope that the inevitable success of this run will demonstrate a very necessary demand to those making the decisions in theatre management: productions like Fairview are really important, and we want to see more.

"Productions like Fairview are really important, and we want to see more"

The first half of this play is just good. It’s funny, the set is impressive, and the acting is good. There is nothing life-changing happening, not just yet. Kayden Best’s portrayal of Beverly is a highlight, and her interactions with Dayton, played by Eyoel Abebaw-Mesfin, feel like they genuinely share a lovingly bickering marriage that we the audience are offered a glimpse of. The pair don't boast a ridiculously long list of camdram credits, do but they certainly do deserve to. Their involvement in any future shows would likely be enough to get me back into a theatre here, so do go and see them in this while you can. The acting is paired with some ever so slightly choppy production, and a couple of fourth wall breaks that I really wish had been avoided, but amateur theatre is amateur theatre, after all, and we can look past that.

"Ultimately, it feels impossible to simply sit back and observe"

The understated nature of the first half is, however, a key part of this play. We’re bearing witness to a normal family where the stress of preparing for a family celebration is grinding everyone’s gears. The rosé isn’t cold enough, the table isn’t laid properly, and a delayed flight has only made matters worse. It’s domestic, and intentionally so.


Mountain View

Fairview: the game-changing play shifting the way we watch theatre

The second half of the play reworks the first in a way that forces audience members to cross between performances on stage and performances in real life. It’s a series of gradual realisations over the course of an hour that leave you with a refreshed understanding of what it means to spectate. Sitting back and watching gradually becomes less comfortable as we begin to understand the severity of what we have already seen compared to what we’re witnessing now. Ultimately, it feels impossible to simply sit back and observe.

Everything else about the play is a secret. Go and find out for yourself. Get your friends to go with you, so you can make sure the impact doesn’t wear off as you walk away. Stay for the after-show discussion, and then talk about this play after.

Fairview runs at the ADC Theatre until Saturday 17 February.