Anyone thinking of adapting Tarsem Singh’s 2006 movie The Fall as a stage play must ambitious, intrepid and highly-skilled. Thankfully all three attributes are applicable to Empath Eyes Theatre, who have been given the blessing of the original director to undertake such a task. Utilising original live music, animation and film within this multimedia project, this modern version of Arabian Nights and Life of Pi (in the sense that is a narrative about telling stories and their multilayered purpose) is a labour of love for all involved.
Plotwise, this condensed adaptation follows the original cinematic source material closely. After a failed suicide attempt, Roy (Robert Rowe) finds himself in hospital. His only companion to talk to is Alexandria (Keira Jozana) a young patient who is in hospital because she has broken her arm. Findng his physical pain impossible to bear, Roy racks his brain with finding a way to secure more drugs/anaesthetics. Realising that Alexandria can read well enough to locate the morphine he desires, Roy uses the tantalising prospect of an ongoing epic tale to pique Alexandria’s interest to run ‘errands’ for him…
In terms of what immediately works, the live vocalists and musicians to the side of the stage lend to the show a live theatre vibe as opposed to a purely ‘replayed experience’. The digital recording of Jozana interacting with Rowe feels like those movies such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit – ‘there’, but really part of another dreamlike reality. As for the standard of animation, while it would be unfair to compare it aesthetically to the top 1% out there, in terms of its ‘storytelling’ and being able to gauge what is going on, it more than fulfils its brief. As an artistic endeavour from a local west London community, it is impressive.
Comparing the film with this production seems a trite exercise, as the respective resources between them can’t be compared. There is one thing, however, that is nothing to do with money or technology that separates them – the interpretation of Roy. Within the film version he has a self-evident rapport with Alexandria and genuine warmth. This version of the tale takes Roy’s predicament to its logical conclusion. He’s in hospital initially because of a failed suicide attempt and he’ll do whatever it takes to end his ‘suffering’ one way or another. This being the case, Roy telling his tale isn’t a shared emotional experience and when he doesn’t get his own way in the latter half of the The Fall, his decision to kill off all the characters is as much a petualnt response as it is a deep-rooted feeling for him that nothing ends well for anyone. In this instance, we really do feel for Alexandria, whose desire to have her imagination inspired is thwarted by this man’s self-absorbed pain. In this harsher version of The Fall, I was more concerned for Alexandria’s safety and well-being than I was for her previous incarnation.
In terms of other observations, it would have been nice to see more ‘real’ actors on stage, which Kate Kesketh’s doctor reminds us of. However I’m nitpicking here. The nature of the show is that it is increasingly likely to evolve and try different things as the production ‘matures’.
© Michael Davis 2017
The Fall ran at Bar 56 Theatre, Acklam Village Market on 17th-19th March 2017.