Photo by Carol Rosegg
All That Fall
We’re all going to fall—and maybe we’re all fallen in the biblical sense. Samuel Beckett rings many humorous and tragic variations on that theme in this piece, which was originally written as a radio play. The Trevor Nunn production from London (through December 8), which features heavy hitters Eileen Atkins and Michael Gambon in the lead roles of Mrs. and Mr. Rooney, is staged in what looks like a radio station, with microphones hanging overhead. The actors carry scripts, and though this is part of the radio station concept, it has the unfortunate effect of suggesting a staged reading rather than a full production. That aside, this version gets to the core of the play because Atkins and Gambon are such enormous talents, and this is the richest possible material for them.
All That Fall starts off with a somewhat lighter tone than usual for Beckett. With her woebegone expression and her dainty movements, crabby Atkins gets plenty of laughs, especially in a naughty scene rife with double entendre in which an old admirer tellingly named Mr. Slocum (Trevor Cooper) helps her into his car. “You’ll have to get down, Mr. Slocum, and help me from the rear,” she tells him, and he cries, “I’m coming, Mrs. Rooney, I’m coming, give me time, I’m as stiff as yourself.” On the radio, this bit of business is truly filthy because you can’t see what Mrs. Rooney and Mr. Slocum are doing as they huff and puff to get her into his car, but Atkins and Nunn garner cleaner laughs by playing up the encounter’s physical comedy.