Theatre Review: LIGHT FALLS – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Lloyd Hutchinson, Witney White, Rebecca Manley, Katie West & David Moorst in LIGHT FALLS

The company of LIGHT FALLS at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Funny, emotional and wonderfully performed, LIGHT FALLS is a bittersweet, richly layered play about life in the face of death

4 out of 5 stars

After 21 years at the venue including four as Artistic Director, Sarah Frankcom says goodbye to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre this month with another stunningly staged production about family, community and the fragility of life. 

LIGHT FALLS tells the story of a family, drawn apart by life. You see the devices within the family, the things that keep them together, the lives they have built away from home, but the sudden death of their mother would bring them together again.

A fantastic creative team has come together to create this play. Simon Stephens, best known for his award-winning adaptation of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, provides another beautiful script. Stephens has a real knack for naturalistic dialogue and his characters feel raw and real. He is joined by director Frankcom, who he has previously worked with on PUNK ROCK, also at the Royal Exchange. Frankcom obviously has a clear understanding of this family and their relationships and knows how to present those devices and connections, both visually and emotionally. Naomi Dawson’s minimalist stage design really serves to bring everything together.

Katie West (Ashe) & Freddie Gaminara (Joe) in LIGHT FALLS

Katie West (Ashe) & Freddie Gaminara (Joe) in LIGHT FALLS. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

The actors’ performances are really fantastic. You can feel the chemistry in their relationships, especially between Jess (Whitney White) and Michael (Tachia Newall). These two are a joy to watch on stage together, their banter flows so easily and I only wish I could have seen more of it. Katie West also gives a great performance as the scared and lonely new mother, Ash. Some of her moments are so primal and real, it’s heartbreaking to watch. The family doesn’t actually interact until the final scene and it’s so satisfying to see those bonds at last.

The play itself is very emotional. You are very much reminded of the shortness and fragility of life and the fact that your loved ones could be taken from you at any second, perhaps when you least expect it. These characters reactions to the sudden loss of a family member are sad, but there’s a bittersweet element to see how they are brought together by it. It’s also surprisingly funny. Bernard’s (Lloyd Hutchinson) entire storyline is incredibly funny to see play out until the real misery behind it is revealed. Despite its emotional subject matter, the play manages to keep a positive tone.

The company of LIGHT FALLS at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

The company of LIGHT FALLS at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Jarvis Cocker of PULP fame also lends a hand, composing the HYMN OF THE NORTH. Little snippets of the song are woven throughout the story, but it’s at the very end when the whole cast come together to perform the song in stunning harmony that really sends shivers down your spine. The lyrics too, add to the story, honing in the message of not losing touch with those who matter.

A gorgeous story that’s wonderfully directed and performed, LIGHT FALLS is well worth going to see. A wonderful portrayal of familial relationships, it’s funny and emotional. It reminds us that “there’s a million things in store for you just beyond the horizon, but please, stay in sight of the mainland.” Live your life, but don’t leave your roots behind.

LIGHT FALLS runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 16 November 2019.