Thursday, May 6, 2004


by Fiona Mountford

How fitting that it should be a theatre company from New York that ahs concocted such a penetrating and poignant piece about things that have been lost. yet dwell not on burning towers and falling bodies, for Gone Missing keeps 9/11 at a considerable yet respectful distance.

"The world is made of little things — what is important is to see them largely," says someone at the end, a line that serves as a fitting summation of this terrific work. Gone Missing created by recently formed company The Civilians, arrives on these shores from the Big Apple laden with praise, to which London audiences should hasten to add their voices during this all-too-short run. The premise is beguilingly simple: members of director Steven Cosson's team interviewed New Yorkers about precious misplaced objects and then turned the results into a 70-minute "mockumentary", or documentary interspersed with cabaret-style interludes.

Shoes, rings, cuddly toys, husbands, innocence, the plot, life itself: it seems there is nothing that New Yorkers have not let slip through their fingers. But tell us only about objects, insist those canny Civilians, thus ensuring that fundamental issues of love, family, belonging and the meaning of the whole darn shooting match can rise up unforced in their own good time.
It is therefore in the context of a lost Palm Pilot that the World Trade Center gets its one and only mention.

Rest assured that such treatment is the very opposite of glib. The underlying — and universally applicable — message is clear: if we place such value on small, even sentimental objects, how can we begin to count the cost of devastating large-scale losses?

In between each succinct section, members of the well-drilled, six-strong cast perform Michael Friedman's neatly judged songs.

In I Gave It Away, Maria Dizzia, Christina Kirk and Alison Weller affect cloying sweetness whilst acidly listing the physical and emotional leftovers of a failed cohabitation, whereas in Etch a Sketch, the whole company laments the blunting of a sharp mind once capable of memorising the periodic table.

We listen, empathise and agree that to lose is what binds us together in our humanity.