It would be fair to wonder what is to be gained from staging a radio play without any visuals at all. The audience watching Samuel Beckett’s one act 1956 piece, All That Fall at the legendary Wilton’s Music Hall sit blindfolded for the duration of the performance. But without pesky sight to distract from the pithy dialogue, Out of Joint’s production successfully strips the play down to its bare, nihilistic bones with brilliant effect.
The cast wind through the space, allowing for voices to rise unexpectedly out of the darkness, while pre-recorded broken excerpts of Schubert and the screeches of incoming trains make the gloomy soundscape even more ominous.
Set in rural Ireland, the play follows the journey of the elderly Mrs Rooney to meet her blind husband as he arrives on the 12.30 train. Consistently maudlin and self-centred, Mrs Rooney’s outlook towards the world is so morbid that you’re left feeling desperate to escape her company – if only her cynicism wasn’t quite so funny. Laughter echoed around the room as she sighed and complained through the first half of the performance. However self-indulgent Mrs Rooney’s rambling though, her pain is nonetheless real. “Love, that is all I asked… daily love like a Paris horse-butcher’s regular,” she croakily laments.
The simplicity of the plot does not mean that All That Fall is an easy play to grasp. The individual backgrounds of the characters are never fully known, the context of their conversations is never understood, and questions are left unanswered. Beckett’s usual themes of death and decay are everywhere, and the naturalistic script does not make it any less surreal than some of his other works.
Despite the occasionally shaky Irish accent, the greatest strength of the production lies in the cast’s ability to deliver the script with warmth and conviction, allowing for the play’s heavier aspects to seep through without sounding forced. In the 60 minutes during which nothing very much happens, we’re left with a lot to ponder. It seems that sometimes being kept in the dark can be a good thing after all.
All That Fall
Until 9 April
Wilton’s Music Hall
1 Graces Alley, E1 8JB