“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.
“provocative in challenging our perceptions on censorship and political correctness“
‘All comedy needs a victim’. This well-known adage is one that is repeated constantly and forms the focal argument for new black comedy End Of The Pier, a play that centres on the often contradictory lives of comics. Making someone laugh should be a joyous action, yet, when it is part of a huge money making business, where your jokes and reputation are under constant scrutiny, it can be rather humourless. Thought-provoking yet highly entertaining, End Of The Pier offers an insider look into how far some will go to earn the last laugh.
Bobby (Les Dennis) used to be a household name. As one half of the once much loved comic double-act, Chalk and Cheese, Bobby helped champion the voice of the working-class, bringing it to the forefront of TV viewing. As years went by, so the tastes and ideas on comedic acceptability changed, leaving Bobby behind, insignificant and lacking laughs. Faced with a lonely life of solitude – and the odd bit of panto – in walks Michael, (Blake Harrison) the nation’s current favourite comedian. He is in trouble, and desperately needs Bobby’s help to try and save his career. Whilst Bobby is being thrust back into the world of showbiz, the darker side of stand-up comedy rears its nasty head, bringing to question, what happens when, deep down, you’re not the type of person everyone thinks you are?
End Of The Pier’s playwright Danny Robins is no stranger to the comedy circuit. He learnt his craft as a stand-up, before turning more behind the scenes, writing jokes for some of the UK’s most well known comedians. His in-depth personal experience provides an authentic depiction of that world, within the play. Not to mention, having Les Dennis on board, whose own life has, in many ways, chartered a very similar path as that of his character.
Robins’ fascination with the evolution of comedy, as well as, dissecting the fundamentals behind why we laugh, comes across clearly. Bobby and Michael are from completely different eras. Where the first half of the play distinguishes their differences, the second half blurs lines, revealing how many of the outdated beliefs and prejudices of yesteryear are still highly present. We have only learnt to suppress them. Robins sophisticatedly offers arguments and social commentary that will play on your mind for days after seeing the production.
The cast give well-rounded performances, with particular mention of Blake Harrison (of The Inbetweeners fame), whose change from Mr Nice Guy to Most Reviled is quite the turnaround. The naturalistic set that has such details as a working kettle and half-eaten biscuits, keeps to the authentic tone established.
End Of The Pier is provocative in challenging our perceptions on censorship and political correctness, yet successfully achieves a nuanced balance in still being amusing and accessible. A must-see if you like your laughs with a touch of intelligence.