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fell by Chris Salt at Barons Court Theatre | Review

The world of fell is practically alien to this London reviewer, with possibly my only experience of Cumbria and the Lake District being going through parts of it on the West Coast Main Line. It’s one thing to nonchalantly gaze at the beauty of the region whilst sitting on a train looking out at the rolling countryside. It’s quite another to try to eke out an existence in the challenging terrain. Though this is what Jake (Tom Claxton) is already doing, and Lyle (Ned Cooper), having observed Jake going about his business, hasn’t gone unnoticed, on account of his (Lyle’s) spectacles reflecting in a stream of water despite him thinking he’s safely unseen behind a rock.

Ned Cooper (Lyle) & Tom Claxton (Jake) - fell - Photo by Keith Freeburn Photography.
Ned Cooper (Lyle) & Tom Claxton (Jake) – fell – Photo by Keith Freeburn Photography.

The pace of the production was too slow for me, although again this has much to do with not understanding the ways of country living. “Out here, you know, you don’t need to fill the silence, you can just enjoy it,” Jake tells Lyle, in response to the ‘nearly fifteen’ year old’s attempts at keeping a conversation going. By contrast, recently I stood outside before a show reading emails on my smartphone because I didn’t want to go into the venue just yet, as I knew the bar/foyer would be, as it usually is, very noisy and very busy with patrons jostling for space before the house opened. You’d think I would, on that basis, like the Pinteresque pauses in this production. I did, in the end – it just took a while to get used to them.

But if, as Jake says, not very many people have what it takes to live his kind of life – it’s effectively sleeping rough in a particularly rural area – London life isn’t for everyone either, and I couldn’t help wondering how this duo would cope if the capital were suddenly thrust upon them. Jake, having evidently spent his formative years on farmland, was quite competent at fending for himself: let’s just say it’s a world away from seeing fish and poultry on the shelves at M&S Simply Food. (I’m not exactly the biggest fan of trigger warnings, but perhaps, without giving too much away, there ought to be one for this show for strict vegetarians and vegans.)

In the same vein, bits of the dialogue went over my head, perhaps because there were words and phrases distinct to the Cumbrian dialect, and I can’t reasonably vouch for the authenticity or otherwise of the characters’ accents either. But the sound effects and staging do well to portray the prevailing outdoor conditions. Potentially, the storyline could be told on a larger stage with a larger cast: here, there’s a lot of describing past events, with the characters not having met one another before a springboard for both parties to ask numerous questions, which in turn makes the show relatively easy for the audience to follow.

Quite a unique experience, this play is best enjoyed by those who would like to see a very different way of living to the hustle and bustle of the city. The vulnerability, isolation and self-resourcefulness of the younger generation in rural society is captured in this bold and no-holds-barred production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Cumbrian schoolboy Lyle walks out of his life and up into the mountains of the Lake District. On the edge of a mountain lake, he meets Jake, whose life is as far removed from Lyle’s as possible. Over the course of 24 hours together, they each discover they are no longer sure who they really are or what the future holds for them. At the mercy of the elements, all they have is each other.

Chris Salt’s play fell is a compelling and moving story of two funny, sensitive lads trapped by a lack of hope and facing the challenges of being young adults in a rural community.

Edgeways Productions presents
fell
A play by Chris Salt
Directed by Janys Chambers
Designed by Jane Linz Roberts
Cast: Tom Claxton and Ned Cooper

Tour dates: 2 – 29 October
Barons Court Theatre, London – 2 -7 October 2023
https://www.baronscourttheatre.com/

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