Robin and Jacqui suffer from keraunothetophobia. For those not up to date on phobias this is the fear of falling things.
John: “until you ask yourself what it is your actually afraid of. What besides things dropping from the sky, things that you know, deep down, if you ever had the courage to look, that you know Arn’t Every Going To Fall”
Robin:“What goes up, John. What goes up, must come down
John: Can sometimes stay up Robin
Robin: January 1997. Woman, Oklahoma, hit on the head by orbital debris from..”
Robin, unable to venture outside without sheer terror at the thought that something might fall on him, is resigned to living his life indoors writing children’s stories. Counselling is not really making much progress. Jacqui, also afraid to leave the house, works from home but is determined to find a way to overcome this debilitating condition. They meet in a chatroom.
James Graham’s whimsical play is a delight. Under the careful eye of director Nicole Buffoni the play never becomes schmaltzy and it could easily drift there. That doesn’t mean you will not have a tear now and again but your teeth will not rot from an excess of sugary sweetness.
The cast is terrific. Brian Meegan gives a wonderful, sensitive performance as Jacqui’s father Reece. Sam O’Sullivan’s comic timing is precise as the motorcycle courier who becomes the human conduit between the two. Eric Beecroft gives geeky Robin a beautiful fragility underneath the awkwardness. Sophie Hensser is a standout. She gives a superbly layered performance. There is fragility, tenderness and compassion but there is also a strength in Jacqui that is a juxtaposition to the debilitating phobia from which she suffers. She will willingly walk away from love if that love will weaken her determination to conquer her fears.
Lesley: You would carry on. Wouldn’t you. Because you, you know what’s behind you, don’t you. Nothing. Because you’ve seen it. And you know what’s around you now, nothing again, because you can see it. And even though your pretty sure the exact same thing is ahead of you, well.. no point in going back or staying still is there? At least in front there’s the slightest bit of.. hope
But this play would not step above the ordinary if not for the comedy woven through it. All the actors contribute to this with precision but Merridy Eastman stands alone. Her constant dialogue whenever she is on stage should be annoying but with careful crafting, timing and charisma, she shines. More importantly she allows the pain and fears of a mother unable to help her son and desperately wanting to, underpin every scene allowing the audience the luxury of wanting to laugh and cry at the same time.
Jacquie: Like the person I know most about in the world who knows most about me but who I’ve never met.
Another beautiful element about this play is Buffoni’s use of the space. Anna Gardiner’s set is shared with Ensemble’s Betrayal, but it feels specifically designed for this production. It has a wonderful minimalist feel while never being vague. The set design and Buffoni’s clean direction allow for a fluidity of entrances and exits that never confuse or lose touch with reality while at the same continue the whimsical feel of the play. Clever work with releasing balloons and image projection on the set continue this feeling. As for the projections, there are some stunning effects created with Tim Hope‘s Audio Visual design. Animated rain and frogs falling from the sky are two memorable moments in a delightful addition to this production.
A History Of Falling Things is a delight. Sydney has a wealth of fabulous theatre on at the moment both Main Stage and Independent and this production easily takes it place amongst them. A Must See.
A History Of Falling Things runs at the Ensemble Theatre until August 20.
Lynden Jones – Theatre Now
7 July – 20 Aug 2016