A psychologically realist sketch show with some really strong talent.
The Fall, written by James Fritz and directed by Matt Harrison, shares three stories all linked by one main political relevance: euthanasia. To begin with I was unaware of the topic of conversation due to the quick, fast-paced fun of ‘Boy’ played by Niyi Akin and ‘Girl’ played by Jesse Bateson. Both actors are clearly very talented which could be seen by their sensory and visceral connection to the text when experiencing the situation alone, however, the relationship is suspect and at times felt choreographed with a lack of genuine reactions between the two. The conversation is a difficult task with a hard imaginary focus point that Bateson deals with particularly well and achieves a strong atmosphere of empathy. Akin on the other hand struggles to access a visceral reaction to the imaginary focus point risking demonstration. However, he does convey a clear and relatable connection with Bateson when reacting to ‘Girl’s’ trauma when thinking about her Grandparents fantasies.
The transition between stories seems like an easy option and I couldn’t find a strong link between the relevance of the underlying political issues and the strong, structured, robotic dance performed by all the actors other than perhaps the teenage anxiety. This does develop slightly later on as the quirky beat is dropped, subverting the anxiety into a desperation suggesting the issue of euthanasia is a universally suffered topic.
The second story shared by ‘One’ played by Troy Richards and ‘Two’ played by Sophie Couch, is immediately more mature than the previous duologue, both characters and actors; the relationship between Richards and Couch is very real and the variety of actions to affect the other was clear and effective in order to tell a story with a great dynamic. The physical action is simple and very imaginative in showing passing of time and expressed great skill from the two actors who deal with very fast cues whilst ‘simply’ making and unmaking one of the single pieces of set: a bed. Couch’s connection to the text is compelling and both actors had a strong understanding of their relationship and they really listened well to one another.
I struggled to connect to the final story where 4 young actors, Josie Charles, Madeline Charlemagne, Jamie Foulkes and Jamie Ankrah, explore characters living in an old people’s residency having been left without communication from families and influenced by the system to ‘commit’ to accepting euthanasia in order to better impact their loved ones. The use of space is jarring as, besides the sporadic and meaningless chair swapping, the scene is static and really drained the potential for clear communications. Furthermore, apart from initial character introductions of ages, there is no indication of age whatsoever which is perhaps why I felt distanced and unaffected as it came across slightly like a teenagers’ inaccurate perspective of an old peoples’ residency.
Despite the dynamic of the scene, Foulkes manages to find some really nice moments of detail that make a clear impact on the audience. Throughout this same scene, Lucy Harvard as ‘Liason’ creates a clear tension between the victims and herself as the (perhaps unapparent) oppressor in the scenario yet she did not comment on her character and instructed a clear element of distrust amongst the audience. Joshua Williams’ neutral ‘Nurse’ character seems unnecessary and does not aid the story or its desired effect.
The story is part of an important discussion that I think could have been expressed with a more effective resonance, had the obstacle of teenage angst not been so prevalent. Despite this intended effect on the audience being not quite so strong, all the actors show a passion and ability to tell an effective story with particular skill being shown by Couch and Richards.
The Fall is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 19 May
Photo: Southwark Playhouse