Trafalgar Studios, London – until 23 November 2019
Sarah Rutherford’s powerful and honest play examines grief, mental health and the influence of social media in a brilliantly sensitive way.
Tackling issues such as mental health and grief through a refreshingly different way, The Girl Who Fell takes an honest look at the effect that suicide has on people from all angles – her mother, her best friend and her boyfriend and an unexpected perspective that I won’t ruin here.
The Girl Who Fell begins in the aftermath of teenager Sam’s death, with her mother at the centre of it all – and blamed by many for her daughter’s suicide due to a video that was somehow leaked online. What follows is an examination of how each of the central characters are coping with her death, before going deeper into how well each of them really knew and understood Sam if she was able to do this.
Sarah Rutherford’s play offers no easy answers, but there is warmness to it that keeps it sincere and utterly compelling to watch. Scenes such as the opening one in which Billie and Lenny are discussing death – while a morbid topic, Rutherford adds hints of humour to it that still reveal how the pair are finding it difficult to cope in the wake of Sam’s tragic death. It is consistently frank but lightly and sensitively handled in Hannah Price’s wonderfully grounded production.
Every bit of dialogue has a strong purpose, with Price capturing the key poignant moments with tiny but powerful pauses that give as much insight into the grief and pain that the characters are experiencing, while Robbie Butler’s lighting captures the haunting and grieving expressions vividly. Seen in particular when Thea finally opens up to Gil about the video and how she tried to control Sam’s life – it is a raw and exposing moment that is beautifully built up. There is no anger – but plenty of pain and confusion from all of the characters that keep this compelling to watch.
On occasion, there are moments which feel slightly clinical and out of place, not really getting to the heart of what is trying to be conveyed, with one of the final scenes and a reveal about the video that could have led to a confrontation is actually understated and makes less of an impact than it could have. There also could have been a tighter focus on the impact of social media in the whole situation (particularly given the focus is on Thea much of the time) but although touched upon it seems a vague factor in the whole situation.
All of the performances have something different to offer and all blend well to tell this story from all of the characters perspectives with great sensitivity. Rosie Day as Billie is blunt to the point of rudeness at times, yet still manages to charm with the way in which she looks after Thea. It is a performance that is endearing and completely honest that is compelling to watch from start to finish. Day also has a lovely chemistry with Will Fletcher’s well-intentioned Lenny who is a warm and instantly likeable character – his rabbit caught in headlights expression as Thea offers him a drink certainly worth smiling about. The pair banter effortlessly and convincingly throughout – trying to mask their pain by focusing on the other. Claire Goose delivers a painfully raw performance as the guilt stricken Thea lost in her own grief, while Navin Chowdhry is also excellent support as Gil whose own life is not quite it seems.
The Girl Who Fell is a powerful, funny and sensitive piece of drama, that covers all perspectives of those caught up in tragedy and grief with brilliant insight.