The multitude of bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling dim, a wall of spotlights lights up slowly, and the audience relaxes in their custom made rocking chairs complete with skull embossed cushions. The story of Maddy Rooney begins…
Last night’s performance of All That Fall was probably the most unusual piece of theatre I’ve ever been to, not in terms of content, but in terms of its method of deliverance. As I’ve previously mentioned, All That Fall is Beckett’s first ever radio play, and in my opinion, it’s probably one of his most accessible plays. Simply put, it tells the story of Mrs. Rooney who meets a variety of characters along her journey to meet her husband off the train. However, this piece of theatre is told only through the medium of sound. The actors involved have long since finished their performances in recording studios, and the performance comes to the audience through the speakers located around the theatre.
Pan Pan have really tried something new with their production, and the lighting and sound effects were really spectacular, particularly in the closing scenes – that bit really freaked the beans outta me!!
Putting together a production that relies solely on lighting and audio is a massive challenge for any theatre company, and I reckon Pan Pan had it pretty well taken care of. I do feel like the actual recording they played could have done with upping the ante in terms of the ways in which the actors delivered their lines. Nowadays audiences are used to having both audio and visual mediums to entertain them in a theatre production and when there isn’t a physical actor on the stage in front of you, it becomes difficult to tune yourself in completely to the audio in order to fully follow a story.
I spoke to a friend afterwards about this, and he put it pretty well – “they underplayed it in parts”. I think to engage an audience fully when relying on just one main medium – audio, this medium needs to compensate for the lack of the actors’ physical presence, for example stressing words stronger than you would usually or varying the tone a bit more.
My friend will kill me for publishing this, but she fell asleep during it and I spoke to another person afterwards who took a bit of a snooze also. I found closing my eyes helped me to really concentrate on the actors’ voices. I think this was because during theatre productions I’m used to following the actors around the stage with my eyes, so I was looking around too much and not listening to the audio. However, closing your eyes in a darkened room, whilst well settled into a comfy chair is likely to lead you off into the land of nod!
It was also very weird not clapping for a troupe of actors taking their bows at the close of the performance … I think the audience didn’t really know what to do at the end and just stood around awkwardly and then gradually drifted out.
I’ve seen two of Pan Pan’s other productions, and this one came across as their most polished production to date, there were some stunning effects with the lighting and for the most part the audio was great, I just wish it had been more of an engaging production.
The production runs until Sept 2nd and you can find out more about attending on the Project Arts Centre website.