ALL THAT FALL
by Samuel Beckett.
Wilton’s Music Hall to 09 April
Grace Alley, London E1 8JB to 9 April 2016.
Tues-Sat 8pm. 1, 8 & 9 April 6pm. Mat 30 March & 6 April 2.30pm.
Runs 1 hr No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7702 2789.
Review: William Russell 26 March.
In the dark being wonderfully enlightened
This 1957 radio play, regarded by Michael Billington at least as Beckett’s finest play, has been performed before on stage. In 1996 a performance in the dark was staged at Battersea Arts Centre, and in 2012 Trevor Nunn directed it at Jermyn Street Theatre set in a radio studio with Eileen Atkins as Mrs Rooney journeying to the railway station to meet her blind husband.
Max Stafford- Clark has come up with the inspired idea of blindfolding the audience, who are seated in blocks with passageways round which the actors move, so that they are completely in the dark and can only sense the movement of the characters Mrs Rooney meets and leaves behind.
The result is mesmerising, focusing the listener completely on this strange tale of the journey Mrs Rooney makes to the station only to discover the train is late. This is very upsetting, but there is a reason.
She starts off voluble, bossy, the kind of neighbourly busybody everyone dreads being accosted by while recognising her basically good intentions, then, confronted by her husband, turning suddenly acquiescent, a devoted helpmeet. She does not, as it seemed, wear the trousers in their household even although as blind he needs looking after.
The actors move round the theatre, the sound effects ebb and flow and the effect is to involve the listeners completely in Mrs Rooney’s world. Listening to the radio, no matter how focused the listeners, there are distractions. They are in their comfort zone. Here they are well and truly in the dark, isolated, no contact with their neighbours and thus totally immersed in the goings on which may, or may not, be sinister.
Whether or not it is Beckett’s finest work, it is certainly his most accessible and this inspired production has fine performances from the entire cast led by Brid Brennan at her most mellifluous as Mrs Rooney. The blindfolds sounded like one of those gimmicks directors indulge in, although the Beckett estate is very controlling, but Stafford-Clark’s approach proves to be no gimmick. It both enhances the play and the audience’s experience.
Mrs Rooney: Brid Brennan.
Christie: Frank Laverty.
Mr Tyler: Gary Lilburn.
Mr Slocumb: Ciaran McIntyre.
Tommy: Killian Burke.
Mr Barrell: Frank Laverty.
Miss Fitt: Tara Flynn.
Mr Rooney: Gary Lilburn.
Jerry: Tara Flynn.
Sound Designer: Dyfan Jones.
Assistant Director: Isabel Quinzanos.