Relationships are difficult things. Stating the obvious a bit but it’s a fact of life that relationships are never easy, and Geoffrey Naufft’s Next Fall currently at the Southwark Playhouse really takes those difficulties to extreme lengths. Adam (Charlie Condou) and Luke (Martin Delaney) live together in an apartment in New York. Yes, they are a gay couple, but that’s not a problem in this day and age surely? Well if, like Luke, your parents are from the American Deep South and you haven’t yet told them you are gay, then there is a bit of an issue. Add to that a large age gap between the boys – to the disapproval of some of their friends – and the issues start to mount. But when a third person is in the relationship (and no, one of the boys isn’t surfing the Internet) in the shape of God, things can become very tricky indeed.
Before we move on, please don’t get the idea that this is an anti-Christian, bible-bashing play. It definitely isn’t. In a series of flashbacks of Adam and Luke’s life together, from their first meeting at a party for Over-eaters Anonymous, hosted by best friend Holly (a scene hilariously played out by Charlie, Martin and Sirine Saba), through to the boys setting up house together, the narrative asks the audience to think about their beliefs in a way that Luke, as a character, never does. Adam has many problems with Luke being a Christian and questions Luke’s faith and the inconsistencies of the teachings of the bible. But Luke’s belief is complete, and even the biggest question of all for Adam, “how can you be gay and Christian?” doesn’t cause Luke a problem. He has an answer and, in his mind, it makes perfect sense because he believes in God, and is going to be one of the saved. His one desperate wish is for Adam to understand this and accept God into his life, so that when they both die – as they know they will one day – they can be together in Heaven. Unfortunately Adam really doesn’t get it at all, and despite his otherwise unconditional love for Luke, this leads to various escalating arguments between them.
But now Luke is in the hospital and his divorced parents, Butch (Mitchell Mullen) and Arlene (Nancy Crane) along with Holly and former BFF Brandon (Ben Cura) are waiting for news, with Adam……… and yet for Butch and Arlene at least, without him. The hospital scenes are highly charged and the audience, like the cast, are soon desperately waiting for news of their son/partner/friend. We stay with Adam and the others as their long vigil moves on to its conclusion which, once more, had many in the audience (including me) sniffing rather heavily when the metaphorical curtain came down.
Every play relies on a whole range of talented people to make it work and this show has them in spades. “The Little” in Southwark Playhouse has a smallish stage but it was put to use most effectively by the skilful manipulation of lighting, props and net curtains, to be everywhere that Luke and Adam had every inhabited. The writing and acting were superb. I loved the relationship between Adam and Luke, which was extremely believable on every level. From comedy to tragedy, Charlie and Martin nailed it perfectly. Mitchell Mullen’s blustering, bully Butch was a nasty piece of work from the moment he walked on stage until the final scene and yet, he genuinely loved his son and had to face the hardest decision for any parent. Nancy Crane must also take credit for making Arlene such a wonderful character. The only one outside of their group to acknowledge, if not publicly then at least in her mind, the relationship between her son and Adam.
I love plays that make the audience think and confront situations they might hope to never face and Next Fall really does that. But at the end of the day, this play is about relationships between family members, whether accepted or not, and how love, commitment and belief are the ultimate bedrock of civilisation itself.
Review by Terry Eastham
Next Fall portrays the ups and downs of Adam and Luke’s long term relationship and how they make it work – despite their differences. Luke is devoutly religious, while Adam is an atheist. However, following an unexpected accident which changes everything, Adam must turn to Luke’s family and friends for support…and answers.
James Quaife Productions and David Adkin present Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts
24th September – 25th October 2014
Show Starts 8pm Matinee Starts 3.30pm
Running Time 130 minutes including interval
Price £18, £16 concessions
Wednesday 1st October 2014