Review: If You Fall at Northern Stage
If You Fall – Northern Stage. 12th June 2023
If You Fall is a remarkable piece of theatre in more ways than one. It is a play which tells two unrelated stories concurrently and both stories involve two loving families who are beset by the decline of a parental family member.
At the outset we learn of the death of Margaret as she gives her opinion of her eulogy at her own funeral – complaining vehemently that they only concentrated on the final years of her life and not the times when she was full of life and certainly lived it to the full. The audience is then introduced to her three children – all in their fifties – and it is explained how she met her demise following a fall down the stairs and the subsequent medical problems that ensued from this event.
Alongside the story of Margaret, we are invited to join Norson who enjoys a very active life with his best friend, Derek, and his well-loved son. He loves cooking, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of cricket, and enjoys fishing. His zest for life is fabulous but it soon becomes clear that not all is well as Norson starts to repeat himself, act aggressively and out of character with his son and friend before he is diagnosed with early onset dementia.
It would have been very easy to go down a tragic route with these stories but the devising company of performers, technical team and creatives have produced a beautifully balanced piece that celebrates the lives of these two feisty and interesting characters while shining a spotlight on the anguish, pain and moral choices the younger family members are confronted with when dealing with a parent or family member with significant care needs towards the end of their lives.
The story telling – through acapella singing, physical theatre and some wonderful acting is at times mesmerising. There are some repeated themes throughout the piece which act as a story arc, but also exquisitely represent a symptom of the health conditions being discussed. These repetitions are not used as comedic relief but instead add a poignancy to the production as a whole which is very moving and clever.
The performing cast is made up of six very skilful actors, singers, and performers. The direction, original by Nir Paldi and, taking up the helm for this production by Helena Middleton is quite phenomenal. The ending is a stunning and extremely thought-provoking sequence which summarises the fragile and constant pressures on the care system especially when it comes to end of life care needs.
The lighting design by Ali Hunter is subtle and effective, the sound design and composition by Jack Drewry is inspired and the cast which was made up of Clive Duncan, Elisabeth Gunawan, Jabari Ngozi, Kirris Riviere, Heather Williams and Robin Paley Yorke all contribute to a very moving, thoughtful, insightful and engaging piece of work that never labours under some weighty subject matter. Praise indeed to everyone involved with making this piece of work that has a message for anyone.
If You Fall is based on real-life personal testimonies and plays at Northern Stage until Tuesday 13th June.
– Review by Stephen Stokoe
-Photo Credit: Camilla Adams
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