Taking lead from Samuel Beckett’s vision, internationally acclaimed director Max Stafford-Clark of Out of Joint theatre company recently took audiences into darkness with a blindfolded live performance of Beckett’s radio play ‘All That Fall’ at Camden School for girls, using 360 degrees sound design and unique audience proximity.
“When asked by Beckett’s nephew what my vision for the play was, I replied that there would be no vision, that the play would take place in darkness," explained Stafford-Clark as he introduced the show, “He replied that that was exactly how Beckett imagined it – with voices coming from the void.”
So into the void we went, taking our plastic seats in the school assembly hall and placing black eye masks over our eyes, letting our ears lead the way. The play took listeners to Foxrock in Ireland, on a faltering journey with an old woman painstakingly determined to greet her husband at the station on his birthday. Simple though the journey may have seemed, it was riddled by deep self-pitying, physical struggle and humorous localised encounters, along with a deep sense of loss.
What 'All That Fall' lacked in a complex plot it made up for in its humour, narrative and sound effects. With an atypical seating arrangement, the actors performed around the audience, always in their midst and often close enough to sense, but impossible to see. Reserved seating scattered around the room was used by the actors throughout the performance, meaning that some people felt the actor’s presence more than others. Realistic sounds of horses and trains reverberated around the room, blind heads presumably moving with the sounds as they journeyed from speaker to speaker, whilst bodies felt the breeze of the cast passing by.
Sounds conjured up realistic images in my head, and at times my mind drifted off elsewhere - the sound of birds singing briefly transported me to my parents garden years ago where I would lay carefree and catching rays, and the acute sense of hearing which developed left me listening for every single rustle - including that of my neighbours and fellow audience members; it all became part of the play.
Author: Sarah Moor
Images: Robert Workman
Out of Joint http://www.outofjoint.co.uk/
Director: Max Stafford-Clark | Sound Designer: Dyfan Jones
Cast includes: Bríd Brennan, Killian Burke, Tara Flynn, Frank Laverty, Gary Lilburn, Ciaran McIntyre