“a warm piece of theatre brimming over with emotional honesty”
Set in the aftermath of a tragic suicide, The Girl Who Fell is play about those left behind. Sam – a never-to-be sixteen year old – is the missing piece the story revolves around as it follows her family and friends grappling with loss and their own burden of guilt. This is a production where the walls come down – both literally and metaphorically. As the rustic, stripped-down set (Georgia de Grey) peels away block by block, so do the barriers the characters have put up to defend themselves, making for a warm piece of theatre brimming over with emotional honesty.
Each character has their own cross to bear with respect to Sam’s death. Claire Goose plays an instantly recognisable fraught mother battling for control, who is blamed by others for the suicide due to her harsh punishment becoming broadcast on the internet. Her superb performance is complimented by those of Rosie Day and Will Fletcher, who fill the roles of Sam’s best friend Billie and boyfriend Lenny so well that by the end of the play you have forgotten that the actors are not really teenagers. From the outset it is clear that these three have relationships with complex undercurrents, and throughout their stories they walk a messy, angry line between looking after each other and tearing each other down.
Introduced initially as a romantic interest for mum Thea, Gil (Navin Chowdhry) is the character last to the stage, and the slowest to unravel, but it is satisfying to see that he too is connected to the death in more ways than one. The script (Sarah Rutherford) times its key reveals and hooks well but is also full of refreshing doses of humour. Paired with Hannah Price’s direction, which brings a wonderful amount of movement and energy to a play about death, and the lighting (Robbie Butler) and sound (Adrienne Quartly), it delivers a tender and touching exploration of grief, blame, and the worst impulses in human nature.
Addressing such broad themes, the play almost seems timeless and that is perhaps its only failure. For all that Sam’s death can be seen as intrinsically linked to her life as part of the social media generation, the unique ways modern life can impact on being a teenager – and being a parent – seem to be largely glossed over in favour of an appeal to universalism. But, nevertheless, there is certainly lots of substance for viewers to contemplate. With its well-woven character backstories and sincere musings on faith, family, and forgiveness, The Girl Who is Fell is a rich treat of a story with wide-ranging appeal.
“The devilishly witty and highly complex poetic rhythms entice you in”
Winner of the 2017 Verity Bargate Award for new-writers, author Dylan Coburn Gray brings his love letter to Dublin on to the London stage.
Citysong began its life as a commission for a spoken word festival. It tells the story of three generations of a Dublin family on one day and passes through time as the characters reflect and reminisce. The play starts off with a taxi driver telling us of his fares and their reason for journeying around the City, he speaks of his family and we see Dublin through his eyes, until the story effortlessly moves to another inhabitant. We have lovely scenes with keenly focussed observations on first love, meeting the parents, teenage awkwardness and a delightful moment in a delivery ward to name but a few. It reflects everyday people, “Everyone belongs in a city and yet everyone is only passing through”.
Set designer (Sarah Bacon) has given us a stripped-back, bare set apart from a few nondescript chairs and tables and a stunning abstract, fractured glass backdrop in the shape of Dublin and its coastline. When a piece of this crashed to the stage ten minutes before curtain up, I was left on tenterhooks every time an actor came through the door within this structure. Thankfully all was well and I hope there are no issues moving forward as the reflections and light coming from this backdrop are utterly unique. Sound (Adrienne Quartly) has an almost constant single note, similar, although lower in tone to when you run your finger around the top of a glass, occasionally it breaks into a tune before correcting itself. This and a constant high screen of dry ice and moody lighting (Paul Keogan) add to the atmosphere.
Director (Caitríona McLaughlin) has lovingly passed this script to a six-strong ensemble. She has created some delightful shapes on a fairly limited space and allowed the actors to express themselves. A cast of just six (Amy Conroy, Daryl McCormack, Jade Jordan, Blaithín MacGabhann, Clare McKenna and Dan Monaghan) playing sixty characters is a heck of a challenge. But without exception, each of them proves themself to be highly versatile, a pair of glasses here, a baseball cap there and you are with them immediately. Everyone has their time to shine and they are all a joy to watch, only on a couple of rare occasions did a small characterisation fall slightly flat.
The play is described as a “Modern day Dublin’s Under Milk Wood”. I hope it shakes off this tag, as it is more than able to stand on its own two feet. The staging is fascinating, the acting is delightful, but the real star is the script itself. The devilishly witty and highly complex poetic rhythms entice you in, wrap you in a warm, comfortable blanket and at the end, gently put you to one side with a satisfied smile on your face. This really is an absolute delight.