REVIEW: Free Fall

Free Fall certainly bridges the gap between funny and dark in a completely captivating way.

acting Corpus Corpus Playroom free fall late show review Theatre

The play delicately tackles some dark themes with light humour and serious questions, and strikes the balance just right.

Free Fall, a Corpus Playroom production, set on Dartford Crossing and covering one night, opens with an encounter between Andrea, teetering on and willing herself to jump over the bridge’s edge, and Roland, the bumbling toll-bridge supervisor. Over the course of an hour, as the relationship between the two develops, some weighty issues are explored, from suicide, the way machines might make human work redundant, and Geordie Shore. This sums up the mood of the whole play in a sense, as it shifts constantly from black comedy, the trivial, to tragic despair and the profound, and back again.

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Sohia and Harrison. photo credit- Johannes Hjorth

Sophia Flohr and Harrison MacNeill handle these swings in mood incredibly well, and MacNeill is particularly good at the comic timing that’s needed to get a laugh out of what can at first seem bleak. In some ways the two balance each other out perfectly – Andrea is biting and blunt, whereas Roland is (at first) softer and more forgiving, with a light humorous touch. Whilst this could have been a hard dynamic to convey to the audience, the pair managed it with ease with their convincing on-stage chemistry.

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a believable relationship.

The unique space that is the Corpus Playroom has its challenges, but also its advantages, and stage manager Kate Stevenson manipulates it well, making the set come alive so that it feels like the single room of the toll-bridge cabin is a truly lived-in and authentic space. It’s easy to suspend disbelief, to feel that there is a huge drop below and the Thames waiting to swallow Flohr up, or that Roland can in fact see miles of sky behind his blinds, and that’s as much to the credit of the actors as to the set-designers.

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it was like being on the Dartford crossing, except not in traffic, so not like the Dartford crossing at all really…

There’s definitely something to be said for treating serious themes with moments of light comedy; it can disarm the audience and make us consider tough questions without us necessarily realising.

Free Fall does this well. Jokingly made remarks about Geordie Shore are littered among serious questions of suicide; is it really an answer to unhappiness? Is it selfishness or selflessness?This is the kind of atmosphere and the kind of problems the play throws up: two awkward and imperfect characters coming to terms together with the current state of their own lives which stand in suspension for the duration of the play, just like the bridge they’re on is suspended above the Thames.

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photo credit – Johannes Hjorth

Profound, bleak, heart-warming, trivial, this is a play very much for our distracted time, allowing us to make sense of what is a pretty jumbled modern experience. This production is highly recommended. 4 stars.