Preview: Staging personal and shared trauma in Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down

Rose Aitchison 11 October 2017

When I asked Imogen Osborne, director of Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, my opening question, ‘what is the play about and why did you choose it?’, she, without hesitation, launched into an explanation that moved rapidly from the factual (‘it’s about three women who have had a negative experience with the same man’) to the conceptual. She discussed the play’s presentation of how trauma manifests and morphs over time, developing into different coping mechanisms for the different women; touched upon the moral ambiguities of the piece and spoke of the power of the female voice when placed alone on stage. She then began to contextualise the play within its industrialised setting in 1980s South Yorkshire, before pausing for breath: ‘is this too much information?’

What was most evident in conversation with Imogen, Becca Bradburn (associate director) and Grace England (actor playing Lynette), was the level of research and consideration they had put into this production. Grace outlined the importance of the male character, Royce, not being physically present but rather an abstract figure within whom each character (and audience member) could ‘create their own nightmare’, suggesting that this ‘broadened’ the boundaries of the play from one experience to many. This sense of broadening, or encompassing more than can traditionally be encompassed on stage, also seemed to be present in the director’s vision for the set. Imogen explained that while the items on stage would be ‘domestic’ in the form of tables and chairs, the stage would also contain pieces of scaffolding to create the effect of a ‘cage’ around the women, as well as harkening to the wider industrial setting. This contrast, she continued, is also intended to emphasise one of the key features of the play, that the ‘inside’ world of abuse and trauma is part of the ‘outside’ world and vice versa – trauma is not neatly contained within a particular location. The lighting too, designed by Rebecca Fry (assistant director), has been devised to pin point the women tightly within their individual settings, focusing on each character but framing each equally. Imogen emphasises that there is no ‘main character’, but rather three women who, while they happen to have one thing in common, have complicated and separate stories which are about more than their traumas, and do not paint them as ‘victims’.

The ‘fragmented’ play, with its interlocking stories and time lines, seems to Imogen to make sense with the Corpus Playroom, as angles are obscured by the dividing wall, and the audience are squeezed into an ‘intimate space’  without their own seats. She feels that because the audience is obliged to watch from different perspectives the ambiguities of the play are reinforced, and this underlines a key facet of the play: the ‘inversion of the victim/perpetrator dynamic’. The group emphasise that they have considered the plight of men in this period, stripped of their previous livelihoods, and, as put by Becca, ‘stagnating, and not progressing’ in a setting they feel unable to escape, behaving in ways that they wouldn’t necessarily have chosen either.

The scope of consideration and nuance in this brief conversation alone would suggest that this production is not one to miss. Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down opens on the 10th October at Corpus Playroom.