Review: Not Falling- a play by Juliette Rose-Innes -is raw, heart breaking and also uplifting and inspirational- a meditation on holding on to love, hope, fun moments in the face of protracted grief
|Not Falling – a play by Juliette Rose-Innes|
Writer/director: Juliette Rose-Innes
Performers: Katherine Jones and James Stoffberg
Choreographer: Amber Morgan
Premiere season: Theatre Arts, Observatory, Cape Town, August 18, 19, 20, 2022, at 7.30pm
Tickets: R80 and R60 student/concession
Direct booking link: https://theatrearts.co.za/show/Not_Falling
Producer: Spark in The Dark
Not Falling is poignant, raw, heart breaking but uplifting and inspirational in terms of the unwavering gaze on life and that which keeps us grounded – relationships, love, laughter, singing, dancing. Beautiful writing by Juliette Rose-Innes, with high energy physical performances (Katherine Jones and James Stoffberg) and inspired choreography by Amber Morgan.
Not Falling, is a fictionalised play, which has been inspired by Juliette Rose-Innes’ own experiences. Her father lives with Parkinson’s Disease. See interview: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/interview-tackling-what-if-life-questions-not-falling-play-by-juliete-rose-innes/ In the play, we see a young woman who against all odds (she is apparently statistically too young to have the disease), is diagnosed with the same degenerative disease that has stalked her father and which positioned her family in a state of protracted grief. Rose-Innes does not have the disease. In this play, she works through a what-if situation. We see the upending of a young person’s life with the onset of a dreaded disease and what then? Who will stay and who will leave and how will it end? I will not plot spoil. The play is a mediation on how one deals – or doesn’t – with protracted grief and how ultimately it is the people we love and who love and care for us and are with us; no matter the roadblocks, for the long haul; the moments of laughter, song and dance that makes it all worthwhile. This is how we chart our way through whatever the lottery of life flings at us.
Katherine Jones and James Stoffberg imbue their characters with pathos, tenderness and humour. Stoffberg plays multiple characters and seamlessly shifts between personas. The shock of diagnosis and physical debilitation is brilliantly conveyed by Jones who uses her body as a vital medium of expression. The high energy dance/physical theatre (choreography by Amber Morgan), elevates the narrative above the confines of the physical. Gliding through the air, jerkiness and physical glitches are left behind. There is a dynamism in this production (see featured image on this page) as everything blurs in the movement -in a good way. It is playful and they have fun- and leave their worries behind. Off the ground, there may be song, laughter and fun. By being ungrounded, they become grounded. They let go of the physical. And if they fall? If you- reading this – fall? Then, you get up- with a little help from those who care for you.
The dance is not conceptualised as a dreamy fantasy. At times the performers are urgent, angry, frenzied. They almost physically rip each other apart and then they embrace. What I loved about this play is its unflinching grip on reality. There are no aphorisms bandied about. Life is what it is. Living with a person with a degenerative disease means protracted grief – on all sides. By acknowledging the reality, one get on with doing the dishes and still balancing the world on one’s hip. That – ‘doing the dishes and balancing the world on one’s hip’ – is a line/image from another play by Rose-Innes, How to Hold the World, a play for children, which was also inspired by her father. The mother figure balances the world on her hip, while doing the dishes. [https://thecaperobyn.co.za/stage-review-an-upbeat-and-joyful-immersive-trip-with-how-to-hold-the-world/]
There is a lot to process in Not Falling. People were teared up, sitting quietly, after the standing ovation. It is an intensely moving play. Rose-Innes is a young writer with grit and bravery, presenting a play which treads uncomfortable territory which we don’t often see depicted on stage. We tend to look away from people with degenerative diseases, away from those who have lost limbs, live with paralysis, who have lost organs. Shakiness remind of us our instability and that we could become ungrounded- physically and emotionally. Not Falling is the beginning of a story and at 45 minutes is over too quickly. I would like to see a companion piece to take this story further. What happens next?
❇ Image credits: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, August 18, 2022.