The piece begins with great impact. Steel lighting floods the stage, immediately setting a dark tone. A figure, lying flat, is carried by the other actors at shoulder height and placed upon the floor, centre stage, where a spot light illuminates her. She sits up suddenly and explains the situation to the audience.
‘We All Fall Down’ by Antonia Goddard presents an interesting concept. The audience, representing humanity, is on trial for its sins. The four characters on the stage are souls who give evidence for the corruption of humanity with the story of their respective deaths. Unfortunately, the play suffers from lack of development, as this remarkable idea is banalised through its execution.
This bold opening transforms into a scene in which the souls introduce themselves. The initial impact is lost as the scene takes on the tone of a children’s story. The speech is simplistic and waffling; the souls’ movements are without conviction or justification; they patronize the audience with their addresses. ‘This isn’t a bedtime story’, one states, contradicting the dreamlike fantasy of the setting.
This resonates later on in the play when one character relates a bedtime story to two of the others. The souls’ deaths are re-enacted throughout the piece as they are each called to the witness stand. These analepses show a range of scenarios intended to give a varied overview of the evils of human existence.
The first scenario shows the communication between a fourteen-year-old girl and an older male via an Internet chat room. This scene satirizes the typical online teenage interaction. Facing the audience, as if staring at a screen, the actors speak what they have typed, also vocalising symbols such as ‘smiley face’ or ‘sad face’. This was comic in places, but it was slow to develop and the empty chitchat fringing the emotion caused the piece to lose its pace.
In stereotypical scenes such as this one and the bedtime scene, the characterisation was strong. However, in the scenes with realist dialogue, the characters appeared underdeveloped and could have benefited from firmer direction.
The emotion of the characters remained flat and one-dimensional and, although a variety of emotions were shown, these were not allowed to grow naturally, but instead switched hastily from one to the next.
The blocking was not clear, with the movement of the characters across the stage lacking conviction or clear direction.
One analepsis took the form of choreographed movement to symbolize the death of the character. The actors put on white masks and shook a white sheet, illuminated only by a UV light. The music chosen for this was over-zealous and introduced too abruptly. Suddenly, inexplicably, six ballet dancers appeared at the back of the stage and performed a short routine.
This whole scene was unnecessary. The story behind it was unclear and appeared to exist only to create an impact and to include elements of physical theatre that were otherwise lacking in the performance. It was entirely extrinsic to the rest of the play.
The piece was brought to a close with the revelation of the guilt of the souls that were trying the audience. The confession of Ellis (Sofia Hurst) that she had killed her younger brother and her condemnation by Ollie (Ben Anscombe) exposed the inherent flaws in those beings able to question right and wrong. This didacticism was predictable, yet gave a cyclical motion to the piece, which began and ended with an accusation of guilt.
The play’s biggest flaw is its predictability. Although the idea of the play is stimulating, it is not explored thoroughly enough and therefore this emotionally complex and thought-provoking idea is made simplistic and unexciting.
The idea could have been more effectively conveyed with an abstract approach to the action, rather than the disjointed flashbacks that attempted, but did not quite reach, a realist style.
With more work this play could have developed into a more pioneering socio-political observation, but in its current form it is unable to demonstrate more than what is already obvious to society about itself.