Festival47 is currently running at the Kings Head Theatre, Islington, until 22nd July, and playing at the festival is Fall of Duty, a story of a baby boomer Mother and millennial Son who attempt to find common ground while working on a play together. The story is set between modern day Brighton; and New York and London between 1913 and 1916. After positive reviews following its first performance at Brighton Fringe, I looked forward to watching a piece with a fresh take on my generation, and examines the way in which the beginnings of our adult lives differ greatly from that of our parents.
However, the play unfortunately didn’t offer me that. Sue (Alison Child) is an insufferable mother, lecturer (in more ways than one), and is currently writing a play based on the true story of Basil Hallam and Elsie Janis, wartime performers who played alongside each other and provided joy and escapism to troops before Basil enlisted in 1915. She enlists the help of her layabout son Jack (Harry Child) to help her bring her story to life. As they struggle to cohabitate and relate to one-another’s lifestyle, Child draws weak comparisons between Basil’s timeline and Jack’s in an effort to tie their stories together, and imply Jack has learned from Basil’s plight.
Child as Sue is, for want of a better word, a bit annoying. She pines and longs for her son to be interested in the topic she has chosen for the piece, and in forcing his participation becomes thoroughly unlikable. Encouraging the audience to join in a sort of vintage karaoke, in such a small theatre with no-where to hide, also does nothing to improve the piece. She is, however, undeniably theatrical, she gives an honest and thorough performance and plays the overbearing mother well. Perhaps her acting skills would be better revealed through other writing. Child as Jack also gives a solid performance, though his stereotypical lazy middle-class teen character is rather unlikeable too. Much of Child’s writing is funny and witty, and she delivers it well, but some parts feel out-of-touch and occasionally bitter. In one scene, Sue berates Jack for not voting in the European referendum, exclaiming that voting is now ‘trendy’ in a mocking tone.
Directed by Rose Wakley, Fall of Duty tries to bridge the gap between Generation X and Baby Boomers, but doesn’t quite make it. The plot feels rushed and a little self-indulgent, with bizarre breaks into the past and a weak link drawn between a war-time hero and spoiled twenty-something. A two-hander, both actors have some undeniable talent, but aren’t given material that allows them to exercise it.
Fall of Duty played at King’s Head Theatre on 15th and 16th July as part of Festival47.