Unless you’re a connoisseur of trivia or frequent pub quizzes in your free time, you probably have not come across the term Keraunothnetophobia, the official word for a fear of falling man-made satellites. As odd as it might seem that being scared of being knocked dead by a big metal box dropping out of orbit, it seems even more unlikely that a love story might develop out of such unconventional circumstances. And yet British playwright James Graham proves us wrong with A History of Falling Things, a heart-warming story about an unconventional romance between two troubled souls.
Forced to live a mostly solitary life as recluses in their own homes, Robin and Jacqui, intensely and endearingly played by James Aldred and Natalie Wright meet via an internet forum and hit it off straight away. As their strictly videochat-based relationship evolves from a friendship between like-minded people who struggle in a world unsympathetic to their condition into a romantic attachment to each other, the audience witnesses a type of love that we seldom find in modern pop culture anymore: a deeply intimate, yet entirely non-physical relationship that is based on an initial platonic encounter over a seemingly unbridgeable distance – even though the protagonists only live five minutes away from each other. But it is not all about the love: As the plot develops, we are granted a glimpse into the upset psyche of Robin and Jacqui really to feel the severity of their fear, and find out more about the characters’ history and what caused them not only hide away in their homes, but essentially to hide away from life.
The play is full of bittersweet moments, uniting comedy and tragedy; they celebrate Jacqui’s birthday together with wine and fine attire and send each other gifts via a courier, quite literally the running gag, who takes on the role of amor, but instead of shooting arrows he delivers parcels to the star (or rather satellite)-crossed lovers.
With a talented cast, a clever stage design (the audience sits on either side of the stage, two desks facing each other as if they were in a conversation) and exquisitely used sound and light effects, director Freya Judd has created an intriguing rendition of a refreshingly unconventional love story that manages to retain all of the elements from a classic love story one could ask for.