James Fritz’s powerfully emotional play is brought vividly to life by the talent of the National Youth Theatre in Matt Harrison’s heart-wrenching production.
Coinciding with the National Youth Theatre’s latest production, a survey was carried out about housing, loneliness and growing old. Out of of the 414 responses to the survey, it was revealed that 87% have experienced loneliness, 82% are worried about being priced out of living in a UK city and 62% said if they won £50,000 they would spend it on a deposit for a house rather than a trip of a lifetime.
These statistics as well as many others are right at the centre of James Fritz’s beautifully structured play about growing old and housing and social care worries that exist in our society now. The play is broken up into three very different stories exploring the different ways in which growing old, money and housing are all interlinked – and increasingly becoming a concern as people are living longer.
Directed with great sensitivity by Matt Harrison, all of the National Youth Theatre cast deliver beautifully emotionally engaging and thought-provoking performances that moved this writer to tears (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one). In particular, in the final story set in a care home which offers residents a way out to become less of a ‘burden’ to their children, the scene an elderly woman decides she would rather die than live in loneliness is beautifully built up and captures perfectly the moral dilemma of the right to die argument without being judgmental in any way.
Each of the cast members handle their roles with great thoughtfulness, really getting deep to the roots of their characters and their stories that keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end.
It has to be said though each story has different style and approached differently, which can make the production feel slightly disjointed. For example, the contrast between the first story in which a two teenagers sneak into the home of an old man for a private meeting is dealt with humorously as a two hander that explores the fear of growing old, whereas the second has a fast and rhythmic approach to a couple frantically worrying about their finances while looking after elderly parent. There is no denying the different approaches suit both stories well but it can take time for the audience to adjust to the change in approach.
There is plenty of passion throughout both the script and the performances that really highlight the frustration, the stress, the anger and loneliness felt by both the elderly and younger people. Sharply written, it is a perceptive and balanced examination about the relationship between younger people and the elderly, highlighting an important issue that affects us all.
The Fall is a play that lingers on in the mind long after the show has finished and performed to perfection by all of the cast. Well worth a watch.
The Fall continues to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 19th May. For more information visit: https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/the-fall/.
By Emma Clarendon