All That Fall

Theatre, Experimental
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
All That Fall
© Robert Workman

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Slip on a blindfold for a Beckett play staged in total darkness

'All That Fall' transfers to the Arts Theatre from April 11. This review is of the Wilton's Music Hall run.

‘All That Fall’ is not the best-known play by arch avant-gardiste Samuel Beckett. But it’s been having something of an extended ‘moment’ of late, after the deceased playwright’s infamously grumpy estate finally allowed it to be performed on stage on the proviso that directors stayed true to its origin as a radio play.

Veteran director Max Stafford-Clark has come up with an ingeniously simple idea for his production of the tale of Mrs Rooney’s walk through rural Irish roads to surprise her husband at the railway station. The entire audience is blindfolded, meaning that – as with radio – we can’t see the cast and there’s no set.

Of course it doesn’t replicate the experience of listening to the radio – even the Beckett estate would probably acknowledge that’s a pretty pointless goal – but it’s a fascinating and somewhat maddening experience. 

Whether it was my chronic lack of attention span or just funny acoustics where I was sat, I found it hard to stay entirely focused on the vignettes of rural life in the shaggy dog story-ish first section, as Brid Brennan’s chipper-but-fragile Ma weaves through the countryside/the room. 

But it clicked in the ineffably disturbing final section, in which a plot finally emerges as the Rooneys are reunited at the station. After all the earlier good natured whimsy, one senses something is ‘up’ with cantankerous, evasive Mr Rooney. Perhaps our not being able to see accentuates the hints of darkness: the upsetting, ambiguous last line is given great weight by the staging – it feels less like a shock twist, more the play finally arriving at the void we’re all already in.

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Users say (2)

4 out of 5 stars