The OUDS New Writing Festival was created to showcase the best of Oxford’s playwriting talent – and it has certainly achieved its aims in Adam Leonard’s new work, A Sense of Falling. Leonard has created a tightly-wrought script, full of nuance and wit. Tasha and Lawrence live an uneasy life in soggy Wales next to a train station: Lawrence is a ticket conductor, Tasha a cleaner at the station’s café. Tasha is addicted to watching the CCTV tapes from the station, and hardly ever leaves the house; Leonard is clearly losing patience with her. Into this troubled state comes Kings, a stranger from London who has come to take Tasha away.
Leonard’s characterisations are acute, and there are some lovely moments. Lawrence keeps the docked tails of a litter of puppies pickled in a jar on the table, and chastises Tasha for making mediocre tea. Kings manages to turn making pheasant stew into a deeply sinister act. The plot is unsettling, and information is given to us drip by drip. Tasha has been witness to a man committing suicide by jumping in front of a train, and has had a subsequent ghostly encounter. Leonard just seems to want to be free of her. Where Kings is taking Tasha to is not entirely clear – but the ominous tone of the kiss he bestows upon her in the final scene assures us that it can be nowhere good. Although the open ending of the play could be called unsatisfying, it keeps the audience thinking about the script long after the curtain call, which was no doubt Leonard’s intention.
The set is extremely well observed, with a fading sofa and garish wall paper forming the back-drop to the action. The appearance of some overly-cheerful ‘cwtch’ mugs (which my Welsh friend assures me means ‘affectionate cuddle’) was wonderfully at-odds with the tense relationships between the characters. All three actors gave strong performances: Alon Witztum as Kings was brilliantly unsettling, whilst Chris White’s Lawrence had all the tics of a man on the edge. Gwenno Jones did a good job as the disturbed Tasha, although her voice occasionally strayed into overly-high pitched territory.
Director Sarah Wright has worked well with Leonard’s script, and the resulting performance is engaging and entertaining, if at times occasionally too-slow. It is good to see that new writing still deserves its place on the Oxford stage.
IMAGE/ OUDS New Writing Festival