It is like a long distance love affair, except Jacqui and Robin live just 30 minutes apart. They have only ever seen each other via the internet, as both suffer from severe phobias that keep them indoors. James Graham’s A History Of Falling Things is a quirky love story about two perfectly ordinary and charming individuals who happen to be limited by mental illness, although it must be said that it is precisely their irrational fears that provide a point of connection for the two. A union of idiosyncrasies is perhaps how love happens. What sets each person apart from the rest of the world finds solace in an other, whose own oddity can cohere to form harmony.
Nicole Buffoni’s very wistful direction of this Australian première production of the piece brings an exceptional sensitivity and tenderness to the couple’s story (with excellent help from Tim Hope’s incredibly delightful animated projections). Some of the very British humour in the play requires greater creativity to involve an Australian audience. Although at times too resolutely gentle in her approach, Buffoni’s staging captures our imagination, inspiring profound and interesting ideas about modern life and our primitive need for affection.
Eric Beecroft and Sophie Hensser are the leads, both impressive in their portrayals of innocence, completely convincing in the childlike quality they manifest for the story. Beecroft is animated and buoyant as Robin, while Hensser is a delicate and nuanced Jacqui. For a combination that although not overflowing with chemistry, they provides the show with a dynamic balance of energies. Also noteworthy is Merridy Eastman, compelling and perfectly adorable in her support role, playing Robin’s very empathetic mother.
In the play, we wonder if love conquers all. Our romantic selves want to know if we can be rescued from our dysfunctions, by someone extraordinary and beautiful. We get by with a little help from our friends, while some of us have the good fortune of meeting a special someone for a transformative experience that could make life that much easier. Jacqui and Robin find in each other, the strength that is absent within themselves. Life requires us to be self-sufficient, but it is rarely an easy journey and the promise of romance can alleviate those troubles, even if only for a moment of theatrical fantasy.