Tag Archives: Trafalgar Studios

The Girl Who Fell

The Girl Who Fell

★★★★

Trafalgar Studios

The Girl Who Fell

The Girl Who Fell

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 17th October 2019

★★★★

 

“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.

 

Reviewed by Vicky Richards

Photography by Helen Maybanks

 


The Girl Who Fell

Trafalgar Studios until 23rd November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | May 2019
Dark Sublime | ★★★ | June 2019
Equus | ★★★★★ | July 2019
Actually | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Fishermen | ★★★½ | September 2019
A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg | ★★ | October 2019

 

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A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

★★

Trafalgar Studios

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 3rd October 2019

★★

 

“This production of Joe Egg is one that refuses to truly grapple with the depths of the text, failing to deliver or connect as a result”

 

In the wake of Peter Nichols’ death just under a month ago, it shines a different kind of light on the somewhat autobiographical play that propelled him to fame as a writer – a poignant retrospective on the legacy he leaves behind. It’s a shame then that this production doesn’t seem to quite live up to that legacy.

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg centres on schoolteacher Bri (Toby Stephens) and his am-dram fanatic wife Sheila (Claire Skinner) in an average day of their lives coping with the strains and stresses that caring for their highly disabled daughter Joe (Storme Toolis, marking the first time in West End history a disabled actor has taken the role) impose on their relationship and psyches. It is a testament to Nichols that the subject matter of this story still feels hugely relevant today, despite the play’s premiere being over half a century ago, and the way the characters use dark humour as a coping mechanism rings very truthfully. Nichols also employs the breaking of the fourth wall to make the telling of the story more intimate, making the audience almost feel more like psychiatrists as Bri and Sheila confess their darkest and innermost feelings of guilt and perseverance.

However, the direct address is also one of Joe Egg’s shortfalls. Forgoing the famous rule of ‘show, don’t tell’, the first act is comprised mostly of Bri and Sheila jumping down from Peter McKintosh’s beautifully rendered living room set onto the bare front of the stage to explain every detail about Joe to the audience, as though they were frantically trying to justify her inclusion in the play. It’s appreciated that when Joe Egg was first produced this was probably quite a necessary feature of the script, but unfortunately here it drags, and the staging especially feels like a misstep from director Simon Evans.

The treacly pacing isn’t helped by a tonal flatline throughout almost the entire piece. Aside from some peaks and troughs in the second act thanks to the introduction of new characters, everything feels like it’s running on one level. We’re told that Bri uses humour to deflect pain and is emotionally manipulative but Stephen’s portrayal never takes us beneath the surface. We’re told that Sheila had a sultry past but we only ever see Skinner being worried for most of the runtime. And the self-awareness these characters have that they are in a play leads to a self-assuredness in everything they say, conveying the feeling nothing really matters and nothing is at stake. Which does not make for engaging theatre.

Bri’s mother Grace (Patricia Hodge) and middle class couple Freddie and Pam (Clarence Smith and Lucy Eaton respectively) provide a greater sense of emotional momentum in the second half, forcing Bri and Sheila to reckon with themselves in a far more exciting way but at that point it’s almost too little too late. This production of Joe Egg is one that refuses to truly grapple with the depths of the text, failing to deliver or connect as a result, and misses the opportunity to do justice to some of the first steps Nichols took over fifty years ago in the representation of disability in the arts, and the doors his work has since opened.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Marc Brenner

 


A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

Trafalgar Studios until 30th November

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | May 2019
Dark Sublime | ★★★ | June 2019
Equus | ★★★★★ | July 2019
Actually | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Fishermen | ★★★½ | September 2019

 

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