Dreamy and trampy

Rafts and Dreams / Outside the Whale

By Robert Holman

I recently heard Holman described as a playwright’s playwright, so I wanted him. If only one could become a great writer just by reading the work of others. That is one trick, of course, but there are many more. Nevertheless, I can see why wannabe playwrights are recommended to read Holman. He is able to tell several sides of the same story without seeming to.

I really loved Rafts and Dreams. It is fantastical and surreal, for sure, but grounded in the kind of authenticity that such works need. The characters come alive through their words and the decisions they make on stage (that’s another trick).

The idea of actually seeing this play is very exciting: there is a giant uprooted tree and a raft on a lake – potentially thrilling live. Of course, the problem with such action-specific settings is that they can also be done poorly. But that’s why Holman’s brilliant. He doesn’t care if it’s impossible to stage. He’s imagined his story and here it is. It works on the page and with the imagination of a decent director and production team it can work on stage too.

Outside the Whale did not move me as much. I love the idea of telling this side of George Orwell’s story, and the young publisher and his wife are very well drawn. I found I could not really get into the tramping scenes, although I suspect they’d have grabbed me if I saw it live.

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