Ginger Hibiscus | Review of Next Fall at The Little, Southwark Playhouse in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Next Fall at The Little, Southwark Playhouse in London by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Next Fall at The Little, Southwark Playhouse in London by Ginger Hibiscus
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02 Oct REVIEW: Next Fall at the Southwark Playhouse

Modern day New York, and Luke (Martin Delaney) is lying in a hospital bed, unconscious and unaware of the emotional turmoil hanging heavy in the air of the waiting room. Outside, his devoutly Christian – yet divorced – parents hold vigil with his friends and long term partner, Adam (Charlie Condou), as each desperately tries to come to terms with his accident; and with each other. As the hours pass, such different perspectives founded on antithetical ideology – but each rooted in a desire for good, and love for Luke- rub the fragile membrane of calmness that rests in the hospital waiting room increasingly raw, as tender caresses of affection begin to draw the blood of frustration.

Superb writing by Geoffrey Nauffts beautifully balances all of this with light, dry and sarcastic humour, as we skip backwards and forwards to key moments in Adam and Luke’s relationship. As we trace their highs and lows, we’re offered an absorbing window into a very ordinary relationship with very ordinary tensions, but one that’s just bursting with love, humour and affection. Charlie Condou is outstanding as Adam, sardonic and scathing with facial expressions that could replace a thousand words. His character is reminiscent of House (as played by Hugh Laurie), a fascinatingly intelligent man always in search for a universal truth, demanding rational congruity by pointing out inconsistencies and revelling in the debate, but doing it in a really, really funny way.

Opposite Condou, Martin Delaney’s Luke is excellent, enjoying an enviable role as the only person not sat in that waiting room, despite being at the heart of its dynamics. In a thoroughly convincing acting performance, we really do come to understand the nuances of his relationships with every other character, delivering a fascinating exploration of how, as humans, we’re able to morph into subtly different versions of ourselves, and how we can have meaningful relationships based on those different versions.

One of those relationships, is Luke’s with God. A practicing Christian but in a deeply committed gay relationship with an atheist, the play asks interesting questions on the interplay between sexuality and religion, and the nature of sin and forgiveness. Whilst this is an element that’s arguably more relevant to US audiences (with a greater prevalence of evangelical ideology across the Atlantic), it’s one of the most interesting elements to the play and one that certainly does still resonate here; not least because it opens up questions about all kinds of faith, including that outside of organised religion. Swerving the temptation to try to define “right” and “wrong,” or impose any views on the audience, it’s the ability of the play to ask the questions, rather than answer them, that makes it so strong.

Under brilliant direction from Luke Sheppard, the cast are permitted – or rather empowered – to form their own views of their characters and really get inside their heads. And in turn, this leads to universally strong performances from all. Nancy Crane is stoical yet gentle as Arlene, Mitchell Mullen immovable and fiercely faithful as the slightly less savoury Butch, Ben Cura pious and judgemental in his attempts to save souls as Brandon, and completing the group, Sirine Saba is captivatingly quirky, accepting and affectionate as Holly.

A passionate cast besotted by Nauffts’ exquisite writing, it’s these people that make Next Fall so wonderful, and that make it so difficult to define. It looks at faith, and love, and life, at relationships, and tragedy, and the nature of truth, all set in a context of a gay relationship. It feels like a step on from Stonewall’s “some people are gay, get over it,” campaign, and reveals that – shock, horror – gay people aren’t just one homogenous group with identical views and experiences. Next Fall gives us a thoughtful, tender and absorbing window into a very ordinary relationship just bursting with and love, humour and affection. And it’s safe to say I’ve joined the cast in being besotted by it. In short, don’t go to see Next Fall because it’s a gay play. Go to see it because it’s a great play.

For tickets and information:

Dates: 24th September – 25th October 2014

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Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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