Catch a Falling Star
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
If theatre is about storytelling, then the one person show is the biggest test of an actors' ability to capture the imaginations of their audience. In Catch a Falling Star, this task falls to Fiona Knowles as she performs the new comedy/drama by Rona Munro, about the lives of three women who were close to a ficticious (and now deceased) rock diva.
Jerry, Helen, and T.W. are the three characters whose identities Knowles takes on over the course of the evening. Her performance is adequate, although at first a bit alienating. It's a pity that T.W. only appears twice, as this is the character who I found most engaging. The vulnerability of the young woman who has lost her mother is disturbingly well portrayed, although if I understood correctly and she was meant to be in her late teens perhaps she could have been played with a touch more maturity.
Meanwhile, as Jerry (who wants to be a rock star) and Helen (the dead star's chicken-farming sister), Knowles seems to be on footing that might be a touch too familiar. These characters both stray so far into caricatures over the course of the play that I found it impossible to sympathize with them.
Munro's script probes gently around questions of celebrity's impact on the lives of the people it touches without ever tackling these issues in a head-on way, and younger audiences may find it hard to sympathize with the issues faced by the older characters. A brief moment of genuine discomfort is reached at the beginning of act two during T.W.'s first scene, but this was the only moment in the evening when I felt a sincere connection with the performance unfolding before me.
Set and wardrobe are minimal, consisting of three mike stands with a shirt and hat for each of the characters (as well as a bag in the case of T.W.). The stands chop the playing area into thirds, and the characters tend not to move out of "their" area of the stage. If Knowles were to make better use of the performance space, the characters and situations might have gained new life.
All this aside, Catch a Falling Star may well hold greater appeal for those with experience or knowledge of small villages in the Scottish countryside than it did for this city-dwelling American reviewer.
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody