Fall Out

Mark Worth
Highly Sprung
Northern Stage, Newcastle

Fall Out

A few minutes in and I was convincing myself that Highly Sprung’s one-act play would be unadventurous and simply playing to its young club-going audience.

The critic proved wrong yet again. As it takes shape, Mark Worth’s piece evolves into an unusual combination of physical theatre, hugely energetic and expressive choreography and real questions on what kind of world our young generations are inheriting and is it one which they can survive?

Fall Out took shape in the face of statistics showing record levels of young suicides, depression and mental health problems (not only in this country by the way), a spur that could have resulted in a worthy but gloomy 65 minutes or one weighed down with statistical evidence. Yet it often bursts with life, movement and humour, as if to remind those watching of our true human potential. It is as interested in its characters as much as its statistical background.

Claire Lambert is Annie and Luke Sheppard Will, older teenagers who have comfortably known each other their whole lives as friends, and occasional lovers.

Enter newcomer Jay (Ashley Jordan), a young man whose original thoughts and observations totally disrupt this cosy set-up and sweep Annie off her feet. Yet Jay’s philosophical take on life includes a plan for an unexpected dark resolution and Annie soon finds herself caught up in his nihilism. Will, understandably, is none too pleased on several counts.

Suicide lurks like a shadowy presence having previously effected all their lives in some way.

Set in a club, on the club roof, in Jay’s flat and—for reasons that are unclear—inside a toilet cubicle, the play has some telling observations on how our young generations are manipulated by social media, vested interests, a morally (and often financially) bankrupt education system and a heartless labour market, but it insists on regularly exploding into action as the three actors gyrate through some breathtaking rubber-limbed choreography developed by the author, director Sarah Worth and the cast. The dance pieces are played out to a thunderous club music soundtrack and they express sexuality, jealousy, love and confusion. Not a bad mix.

The audience stands throughout in Stage Two, which here is designed as a plain black box. We turn to watch the action at one end on the club dance floor and roof, at the other end in that—erm—toilet.

The three actors gel perfectly both through their movement and script delivery. This script has a deceptively light touch, managing to juggle big ideas with no sense of straining. Only occasionally does the piece feel a bit cheesy as when the audience is asked to hold up their shining mobiles. One caveat—Jay’s chilling dark logic is most telling when his nihilism seems clear and cold-blooded, not deranged as in the final quarter.

Director Sarah Worth has developed the work into a seamlessly effective theatre piece, of its time but with concerns that are undated.

One of Annie’s first lines in the club to Jay is, "do you come here often?" a whiskery cliché which made this gnarled reviewer (a good half century older than most of the audience) feel quite at home.

But then one strength is that when the piece’s humanity shines through, it can speak to all ages.

Reviewer: Peter Mortimer

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