“It’s not exactly festive fare, no”. Carla Kingham, director of Kellogg College’s upcoming production of Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, is as understated about her new project as she is passionate.
Richard Cameron’s dark, harrowing one act-er is certainly a far cry from the all-singing all-dancing Christmas offerings being rehearsed all over the city in the run-up to Oxmas. A forgotten gem that won the Fringe First prize in the early 90s, the play revolves around a series of monologues delivered by three women, all of whose lives have been touched by an absent, abusive husband and father. It’s the first time that it’s been performed in Oxford University, and Kingham is keen to showcase a text about which she is evidently very passionate – she tells with a fervid intensity of when she first read the play, a contraband gift from a GCSE drama teacher.
The personal resonance of the text is immediately apparent with the cast too – Zoë Bullock, one of the three female cast-members, spoke of her “close empathy” with her character. Their enthusiasm is infectious, especially in the context of the open rehearsal involving me, the director, and just one actor. But it’s just this sort of intimacy that the tight-knit company of five is aiming for – the run consists of just three shows of 40 seats in the Oxford Hub’s space above Turl Street Kitchen.
Pared back word-of-mouth marketing takes this show even further from the bright lights and boisterous show-tunes of more conventional Yuletide theatre. According to Kingham, this is a conscious disaffiliation: “we wanted to show that theatre can be made anywhere, and that it’s not about the egos”. Of course, this is a lovely concept, but the proof of the pudding is in the acting – fortunately, in the scene that I saw, Bullock was exemplary (despite the usual rehearsal period line slips). Filling the room with a remarkable stage presence, she delivered a captivating excerpt. Her combination of lyricism and childish stiltedness in her characterisation made for a vital and spirited performance of an instantly expressive and appealing text.
For those looking for something a little less saccharine than the standard festive fare, this show looks to be a tour-de-force in the making.
Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down is showing at the Oxford Hub above the TSK from Thursday 28th November-Sunday 1st December (8th week). Tickets £8/5, in aid of the Oxford Hub – available on the door or in advance from the TSK.
PHOTOS/ Alex Talbott