Edinburgh Fringe 2011
The Main Road Theatre Company presents Richard Cameron’s Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down. Set in Yorkshire in the 1980’s, it tells the stories of three young women who unbeknownst to each other are linked by a past event and the circumstances that lead to their paths crossing.
The drama unfolds in a small town. The three characters begin to tell their tale of how their lives were changed. There has been an accident. Lynette, Charlotte Meyer, is a 15 year old girl who is hiding in a field listening to an ambulance siren wailing, praying that it’s not going to her house. Her mother is ill and she’s begging God to forgive her for thinking “this time let it be for someone else”. Ruby, Sinead Faulkner, is an 18 year old woman who has just discovered she is pregnant. The father is a local youth, Royce Boland, and she is trying to get the courage together to tell him, knowing he won’t support her. Jody, Jenifer Miler, is a 10 year old girl who is in love with Al, a child in a man’s body. As the spotlight dances to each person, it is Jody’s story that begins to soar through, a playful afternoon with Al is interrupted by some local youths, one of whom is Royce. Armed with a shotgun and two unruly dogs the youths bully and chase the immature couple. It gets out of hand and Al is killed.
We jump forward 7 years. Ruby was right about Royce and he has forced her to keep his identity as the father secret. Struggling to find a partner, she is having an affair with a married man. Lynette is in an unhappy marriage to Royce, he is violent and boorish and she wants to leave, but her religious beliefs won’t allow it. Jody now works in a hairdresser and has erased the whole Al incident from her mind. It’s here that the stories become intertwined, the catalyst being the selfish bully Royce. Unhappy in his marriage he tries to create a relationship with his son, but Ruby has got her act together and doesn’t want him in their lives. Lynette is spiralling out of control as her time with Royce becomes more abusive and a casual invitation made to a girl in her local hairdressers brings about a brutal twist of fate.
Set in the 1980’s, this drama is imagined on a large stage with 4 mainly static settings. (bed, bridge, leafy grotto, table and chairs). Using the backing tracks of Blondie and Culture Club, the cast add or detract from the stage with precise lighting cues that spur on the action. The spotlight flips to each character placing the others frozen in darkness and as the drama unfolds the speed of these spotlights quickens. Clad in legwarmers, and at one point hot pants, the cast acquit themselves well to the narrative. Jody’s breathless rendition of the chase and fear of being caught, Lynette’s wishing and hoping the ambulance is not for her and Ruby’s fear of telling her parents of her predicament are all delivered with conviction and believability. They transition the 7 year gap well, without dropping the momentum.
It’s an intuitive and enjoyable piece of theatre which works well in this large space. The spotlighting effect is a major factor in how the whole piece feels and the timing. At first it was a bit disconcerting but you soon settle down with it and try to second guess where it’s going next. The play also manages to incorporate comic yet insightful comment, particularly when the teenage Jody goes to the pub with her workmates, a self conscious hairdresser and a dry monotone manager. They drunkenly explain the art of ridicule to Jody and that even they don’t know why they do it. Surprising her with the fact that they were extremely fond of the victim and it wasn’t their fault that he didn’t realise it. The script is mercurial, in that it slips back and forwards to allow each player to tell their part of the plot, but eventually all the pieces slot together and the play ends with a punch. Well worth the money.