All That Fall
4 stars ****
THE SKULL reappears, in Pan Pan of Dublin’s second EIF staging of a Samuel Beckett text originally written for radio; but now, it appears only as a subdued motif on the cushions of the rocking chairs on which the audience sits, in the darkened great hall at The Hub. All That Fall is an earlier and perhaps less perfect play than its companion piece Embers, the story of a very fat elderly woman, Mrs Rooney, who sets out for the local station in a small Irish town, to meet her husband; and then returns again with him, amid all the comedy, self-disgust and utter tragedy of advancing old age.
The aim of Gavin Quinn’s production is to turn this recorded text into an experience of collective listening, as we gather under an array of hanging bulbs that turn the whole space into a great installation, in front of a wall of lights that conjures up oncoming life and death. In fact, though, we spend so much time in darkness that the rest of the audience is often invisible; and it takes time to grow accustomed to the abstract, fragmentary quality of the soundscape. Like Embers, though, All That Fall features two stunning vocal performances from Aine Ni Mhuiri and Andrew Bennett. And when the two finally break into wild laughter at the idea, from Psalm 145, that God will help and lift up all that fall, we hear again how Samuel Beckett is the playwright who spoke definitively for the 20th century; who cast a cold eye on life and death, and refused the comfort of faith.