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Published on Saturday, 14 August 2010

4 stars

Traverse Theatre (venue website)
6 - 29 Aug (not 9, 16), times vary
Reviewed by Susannah Radford

The experience of watching the Corn Exchange’s production of Michael West’s Freefall is that of a warm rain washing over you; the tone of this play follows the gentle path a stream takes as it meanders through a field.  The main character (given no name) suffers a shock, and freefalls, as it were, through a series of flashbacks and considerations of the recent past.  Freefall is a meditation on his life and the events and people that shaped him.

It is at once theatrical and realistic.  The audience are taken on a journey that moves back and forth in time; most of the actors play a number of roles and morph beautifully and instantaneously from one character and time period to the next.

Whilst it’s a gentle piece, it’s still dramatic.  Yet events are filtered through the main character - and his nature is mild, so that there is an evenness of pace.  This lack of variance in pace and tone is a possible criticism, but there is still something satisfying about it.  And in any case, it's more realistic; life happens to him, rather than him forcing his way through life.

There’s a fey quality to this production - walking towards death - and an otherworldly aspect runs through Freefall.  There’s delightful humour as well, particularly in the classroom scene with its array of youthful “savages”.

It’s a meditation, too, on the nature of love: love between husband and wife, parent and child, and sisters and brothers, questioning whether real love lets go.  It separates pain from suffering - the former “a reality”, the latter “what you allow to happen” - and explores how love can alleviate suffering.  It’s also about yearning, separation, change and letting go.

What is most notable about Freefall is the acting, understated yet amazing; there is the same beautiful unforced quality to the portrayal as there is to the story.  The characters are all warm and lovable in their own ways, and played with humour and great compassion.  At the end of the play you come away feeling that you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of another.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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