Edinburgh Fringe 2009
The Fall of Man
Red Shift Theatre Company
Venue: Pleasance Beside
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
This is a play of juxtaposition: high poetry and carnal nudity, myth and modernity, coarseness and sweetness. Paradise Lost is quoted and a simple and effective story is delivered, and these two mingle and align as the intertwining bodies on the single piece of staging: a creaky bed. While small technical faults jar, the piece and its performance are sexy and gratuitous, combining a fun romp with the sometimes fraught politics of sexual relationships, and make this piece delightfully watchable despite the sometimes heavy emotional content.
The Fall of Man asks a lot from its audience. We are squeezed into Pleasance Beside, almost sitting at the foot of the bed where the action takes place. The story is simple indeed: a husband and an au-pair start an affair, which ends with the shattered dream that their love can conquer the inevitable politics and boundaries of their situation. This is coupled with the story of Paradise Lost, narrated by either character as their situation emulates a moment from Milton’s classic. The husband is likened to Satan, falling from grace as he falls in love with another, while the au pair becomes Eve, realising her shame as she and the husband start to realise how little life their flawed relationship has. This back and forth is punctuated by overt sexuality and nudity, with both actors being nearly completed naked for most of their time on stage and the Apple of Knowledge being likened to a blowjob. As crass as that sounds, the interplay between sex, myth, and real-life is a sumptuous concoction, and enhances rather than overshadows each aspect of the production.
The sex and nudity is touchingly simple, and, when juxtaposed with the poetry directly, as during the actual blowjob scene, surprisingly effective. However, this overt gratuity is played in strangely staccato fashion. Both actors may be nude or nigh on, but when the scene is not of a particularly sexual nature, they are making a constant nature to cover themselves with the ever-present duvet and pillows. It is not clear whether this is embarassment or part of the staging, but it doesn’t invite audience involvement. This is further compounded by the jumpy technical cues, similarly staccato, which seemed more like errors and less like a polished and professional cues.
The acting is, in contrast, beautifully slick. Stephanie Day and Graeme Rose slide gracefully in and out of Milton’s poetry, and their own story is played touchingly and effectively. Their writhing, at times, suffers from the above-mentioned staging, but more often than not is pleasantly natural. Rose, in particular, transitions well between repressed husband and demonic story-teller, and enlivens the tale beautifully. It is disappointing that this watchability does not translate to the production, but not a major fault: this is a gutsy and well-performed piece, and a shockingly carnal physicalisation of the Adam and Eve mythos; with so many pieces about the Garden of Eden at this Festival, this is certainly one of the highlights.