Friday, 22 April 2016

Review All That Fall

All That Fall
By Samuel Beckett

The Path Of Life

Sitting in a blindfold  - both artistically correct and in accordance with the wishes of Samuel Beckett's estate -  during this production of All That Fall, an unoriginal  thought struck TLT and her conveyance of choice.

"That Sam Beckett can't half write!"

We don't mean the character of Quantum Leap fame, but the real Samuel Beckett, playwright, novelist and not a bad cricketer either (well, it gave him and Harold Pinter something to talk about - in between pauses;)).

All That Fall, an hour-long 1956 radio play set in rural Ireland, is such a beautifully structured, rhythmic piece of pure audio, technically brilliantly paced. 

And what is more, what  comes through joyously in this production transferred to the Arts Theatre from the more cavernous Wilton's Music Hall, is the total delight in it for director (Max Stafford-Clark), actors, the sound person (Dyfan Jones)  - and of course the listeners .

Not discounting naturally the silences,  for as the central character Mrs Maddy Rooney (Brid Brennan) says  at one point with simple eloquence: "Do not imagine, because I am silent, that I am not present and alive to all that is going on'

And there is such a lot going on. From the start we are immersed in the heightened noise of farmyard animals and footsteps. Driven by sound as much, if not more than, words, the play charts the Saturday journey to the railway station, there and back, on foot  of elderly arthritic Mrs  Rooney. 

She is out to surprise her blind husband Dan (Adrian Dunbar, currently Superintendent Ted Hastings in TV series Line Of Duty)  on his birthday, returning  from work.

And the "never tranquil" Mrs Rooney and her acquaintances move around us as we sit in darkness,  bringing with them their soundscape, the climbs and descents, the slowing downs and the quickenings, the advances and the retreats.

Along the way German lieder music on a gramophone drifts out of a house across the lane and Mrs Rooney meets familiar folk. The dung carrier (Frank Laverty), an elderly cyclist (Dunbar again, although you wouldn't know it!), an admirer from times gone by, the race course clerk (Ciaran McIntyre) with his own little cramped jalopy,  Mr Barrell, the stationmaster (Frank Laverty doubling up, but you wouldn't know it ..) and the pious Miss Fitt (Tara Flynn).

Meanwhile Mrs Rooney's mind drifts back to past family tragedy.  She finds Dan and they walk home, managing to laugh despite finding no place to rest, "There is no bench ... There is no bank". As Mrs and Mr Rooney make their way home  they also encounter two children Jerry (Tara Flynn) and Tommy (Killian Burke) as the June weather changes for the worse, But not before we are all drawn into a mysterious railway death of a child.

This seated auditory blind man's buff reaches its peak when we are surrounded by the crescendo huff, puff and hiss of steam as the train draws into the station. For all the world,  as if the flickering Lumière Brothers' famous film of a locomotive drawing into a station had come to life around us

It's a delicate piece teetering into tragedy by way of laughter and lunacy  with, like James Joyce's Ulysses,  a steely backbone of trade and business. The title is obviously a  quote from the psalms. Yet surely Joyce's final work Finnegans Wake also starts with The fall bababadalgharaghtakmminarronn...)? (third paragraph) 

But enough of literary criticism, real or imagined!  It's enough that this piece dramatically managed to evoke a characterful literary history while making us laugh, sometimes ruefully, and provided a completely different, but very three-dimensional theatrical radiophonic experience.A green light.

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