This review is of 'Gods are Fallen and All Safety Gone's run at Camden People's Theatre in London in May
What a quiet, restrained and gently devastating piece this is! ‘Gods are Fallen and All Safety Gone’ is an exquisitely constructed two-hander, in which two male actors play a mother and daughter. Selma Dimitrijevic’s dialogue loops, stutters and repeats as these two characters behave warmly, tenderly, and angrily towards each other. It explores the instinctive patterns that lie behind the mother-daughter relationship and the way these engrained patterns can bring us great comfort – and great pain.
Dimitrijevic has written and directed this piece and she handles her delicate script with consummate sensitivity; she never pushes too hard yet every word sings. Sean Campion and Scott Turnbull (who play the mother and daughter respectively) perform with incredible precision yet still infuse their performances with liveliness, ambiguity and warmth. The gender-blind casting encourages exceptionally compassionate performances and also reminds us just how deeply embedded these family dynamics can become.
Oliver Townsend keeps the set very simple – it’s really just an open space – and director Dimitrijevic embellishes sparingly. The only ‘extra’ touch is a real-life mother and daughter, who sit to the side of the stage and sip tea together. It is a beautiful concept, which allows the play to ripple and reflect the audience, without ever breaking its own internal magic.
As the two actors play out the same encounter over and over again – just a simple chat following the daughter’s bath – the script pulls up in strange places. A moment of tenderness is drawn out or a conflict is subtly altered. Opportunities for change emerge and, yet, the essential dynamic remains the same. It is only late on, when an otherworldly stillness takes over the piece, that the two are finally able to break the pattern and really connect.
Long silences stretch out and it feels like a lifetime of emotion is held within them. Tiny instances of comfort and despair pierce deeply. This is the type of show that will gradually creep up on you and, just as you stumble out of the theatre, thump you right in the heart.