'Falling' review or 'Catch me if you can.'
Falling, Daniel Jamieson
Old Fire Station, 20th March 2019
Written for The Guardian
A black hole is engulfing Claire and her teenage daughter Alice. One day Alice pops out to fetch some apples from the garden, falls down a sinkhole and nearly dies. Mum and daughter find themselves torn apart – literally at first, then emotionally. With the two struggling to connect, Alice protests to mum: “There are holes in the world, and I’m going to fall down them.” Daniel Jamieson’s play Falling – revived after a tour in 2016 – is written with compassion and convincingly performed, but rather, well, literal.
Jamieson is best known for writing the Kneehigh show The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk. However, it’s his background in children’s theatre, shared by Theatre Alibi, that comes out strongly here. Director Nikki Sved’s production is over-orchestrated, even if it brims with heart. Thomas Johnson’s emphatic score is performed live by guitarist Thomas Fripp and – in moments of peril – is accompanied by angry strobe lighting, wailing from Claire (Jordan Whyte)and the sight of young Alice slipping and sliding around a large metallic circle, the centrepiece of Trina Bramman’s set. The performances can’t be faulted, but it’s hard to feel anything when your emotional reactions are so explicitly prompted.
Stripped back moments catch you off guard, though. As Alice – performed with prickly charm by Anna Wheatley – struggles to come to terms with her accident, she takes her young cousin to the park. The cousin is played by a puppet; nothing more than a bright red jacket with a football for a head. Her movement is free and unencumbered. As the two play happily together, you remember just how light – and devoid of darkness – childhood could, and should, be.