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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows, and various online archives preserve still more vintage productions. Even as things return to normal we continue to review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

The Fall
National Youth Theatre    January 2024

The National Youth Theatre was founded in 1956, and over the decades has provided early training for hundreds of young performers who went on to professional careers and a fun after-school activity for thousands who did not.

Its Class of 2016 capped their year with a short season at London's fringe Finborough Theatre that included James Fritz's The Fall, now available online.

The Fall consists of three separate scenes connected by the theme of Youth's inability to empathise with Old Age.

In the first a young couple looking for a place to have sex stumble on a dying old man. The immediate impulse to send for help is stifled by the rationalisation that he's so old he would probably rather die than live, and they abandon him.

The second scene says much the same even more darkly, as a speeded-up timeline takes a young couple through a lifetime of resenting the man's mother, who goes from being an obstacle to their plans, by living on in the house they'd like to inherit and sell, to a burden through the emotional and financial drain of supporting her in her old age, until they take steps to speed up their relief.

The third scene is set in a dystopic near-future where a cold-blooded hospice manager doles out or withholds euthanasia on whim.

Each of the scenes clearly condemns the younger characters, though each is surprisingly charitable in showing that they act less out of malice than out of an inability to recognise the very old as fully human.

As a result The Fall becomes less a moral judgement than a sad reflection on the darker implications of callowness and inexperience.

The briefness of each episode, each with its own cast, leaves little opportunity for individual actors to register much, though Matt Harrison's direction, along with the decision to dress them identically in neutral clothes, makes it clear that the impression of an anonymous ensemble was intended.

The online video was clearly made for the company's files rather than public showing. Its static single camera is adequate for the Finborough's small playing space, but the single microphone leaves much of the dialogue muddy.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of The Fall - National Youth Theatre (2016) - 2024
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