On a small intimate stage at the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square, magic is happening. Not the kind you might expect at Hogwarts. The kind that sees Samuel Beckett’s radio play, All That Fall brought to the West End for the first time.
“To act it is to kill it,” Beckett once said of his 1956 play. Fast-forward to 2012 and his estate were finally convinced by Trevor Nunn to let him stage the production as a radio reading.
The result is a minimalist set design and very little in the way of movement. The entire 9-piece cast all hold scripts as old microphones hang loosely from the ceiling.
Despite this, Eileen Atkins (78) delivers a stellar vocal performance as the plays lead, Maddy Rooney, an elderly Irish woman venturing to the train station to meet her blind husband, Dan, played by Michael Gambon (72).
With a rich delivery from the plays leads, accompanied heavily by sound effects, the sharp-witted script in all its melodic extravagance leaves you in a melancholic laughter, befitting of a tragic comedy. The sound effects though, prove mostly comical, in the absence of visual stimuli.
As the laborious journey to the train station unfolds, we meet several occupants from the small Irish community before proceedings take a much darker turn with the arrival of Mr. Rooney himself. Gambon flawlessly represents the dry, unhinged nature of Dan, who hides a terrible secret which blossoms in to a fully-fledged sucker punch as the play reaches its climax.
The toned down stage is met with stark contrast by the casts enthralling perfomance. Atkins, in all her brilliance, is able to relay the punchiest of lines, hints of irony and a woefulness that leaves you reflecting on the frailty and misery that comes with age.
All That Fall sold out its three week run at the West End, which ended November 25th. Be sure to check out some of the other excellent plays being staged at The Arts Theatre at the following address… http://www.artstheatrewestend.co.uk/