Review: Free Fall

Tom Bevan 4 November 2015

Free Fall at the Corpus Playroom tells the story of Andrea, who is preparing to throw herself off the Dartford Bridge, and Roland, the toll booth supervisor who doesn’t want the administrative hassle of a suicide. The whole play is centred around their unlikely friendship as Roland tries to convince Andrea not to jump, or at least not to do it off his bridge. The hour long play features a cast of two, Sophia Flohr and Harrison MacNeill, who are to be commended for sustaining attention all the way through. Their performances managed to range from intensely emotional to laugh-out-loud funny, while the use of stage space was effective in a play which tempted to be still and sedentary for most the action. However, the age dynamic between the pair, certainly at their first meeting, seemed to be more like that between two twenty-somethings (especially with Roland’s casual Beyoncé reference) rather than Roland being maybe double Andrea’s age.

The play relies heavily on gallows humour, darting between suicide and jokes at a quick pace. This did generate a lot of laughs, though bankrupted the play’s attempts to assume a more serious pose in the latter half. This was particularly evident when Roland, who had been an almost exclusively comic character, erupts with judgmental vitriol: it seemed out of place for his character, and evaporated any sympathy for him. It leads into a broader problem with the script: what is it for? A depiction of poor, post-industrial England is an intriguing premise, but all too often the play feels more like exhibiting working class culture (the Geordie Shore discussions being a case in point) for the amusement of a wealthier Cambridge audience. It even smacks of social Darwinism in places as Andrea is very thoroughly shown she has nothing to live for as her son hates her and her job at Asda is being automated.

The play is genuinely quite funny a lot of the time, and the performances carried the play through well enough, but the heavy themes failed to make the whole experience anything other than troubling with their inconsistent treatment. Free Fall doesn’t quite bridge the gap between comedy and tragedy when it comes to human mortality.