In a secret location near Salisbury Playhouse…

all-the-journeys-i-never-tookIn a secret location near Salisbury Playhouse, All The Journeys I Never Took is an immersive spoken word show for one or two audience members at a time. With the cityscape framed, the audience become a voyeur to the bustle around. Here we take the time to be, to listen, to let our senses roam. A personal story emerges. A story that explores what it is like to leave behind the middle man – lover, father, priest – & discover our place in the world. A space that echoes with unravelling journeys, break ups, first dates, family, confidences. Here we ask the audience to take an active role. Here we mutter poems of love, of loss, of the human. The city provides our actors & backdrop. Here the everyday is elevated. Told through interactive theatre, text and objects, this immersive journey explores the individual’s connection to the whole and art as provocation & event.

Writer and performer Rebecca Tantony tells us a little more about the production:

What inspired All the Journeys I Never Took?

It sprung from a seed; from conversations over coffee and the desire to co-create work with the brilliant women around me. It came from political frustration.

Why did it feel important to deliver the show to one person at a time?

I think the explosion of poetry in the mainstream and its increase in popularity means live performance is offered to bigger audiences. I am interested in how to capture the personal intensity of a performance where you feel like it is just ‘for you’. The team wanted to explore ways in which we could do that through a one on one delivery.

What has been the audience response?

People seemed extremely affected by it and we have had comments including ‘Theatre so rarely makes me feel moved or like it was made directly for me.’  And ‘Gracious, ecstatically loved up, in awe. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.’

All The Journeys I Never Took is performed in a secret location near Salisbury Playhouse on Saturday 18 February 2017 as part of Theatre Fest West. This show is performed to 1 or 2 audience members at a time and there will be FREE 30 minute performance slots available between 12pm-2pm and 3pm-6pm. Bookings can be made via the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 from 1 February 2017.

Writer & Performer | Rebecca Tantony

Director | Raquel Meseguer

Designer | Synnøve Fredericks

Producer | Lucy English

 

Writing a play for a robot

Jon Welch from Pipeline Theatre writes about the creation of Spillikin – A Love Story.

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Spillikin – A Love Story. Photos by Steve Tanner

It’s not often, as a playwright, that one’s given an opportunity to write a play for an actual, state-of the-art robot. However, in 2014, Cornwall-based robot-maker extraordinaire Will Jackson, having seen our play Transports (which also later played in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse in 2016), took a chance with us and so we started the process of putting one of his astonishing creations on stage. His robots are life-sized, humanoid, and exhibited around the world at museums, Universities, Ted Talks, but this was the first time one of his robots was going to be in a real play, playing a ‘part’. His words to me were: “I’ve spent ten years designing a piano – now I need someone to write the music.” So, no pressure, then.

The immediate issues were, one: how to make it ‘theatrical’ (not having the special effects and narrative shortcuts available in film), and two: how to avoid the clichés – in fiction robots generally either become ‘human’, or kill everybody. What was the story going to be? Around the same time, our artistic co-director’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and the idea of combining an endlessly patient robot-companion with someone embarking on an unknowable journey of forgetfulness and loss came into focus.

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Because this robot is so special, and looks so amazing, it became obvious that it would have to be a bespoke companion. So it became a love-story – a robot designed by a robot-maker (himself with not long to live), specifically for his ailing wife; an ersatz husband, uploaded with his memories and ‘personality’, a whirring, twinkling, singing, game-playing, memory-prompting love letter created to stick by her from beyond the grave, as her Alzheimer’s worsens.

As a writer, it’s a been a journey for me too; not just in terms of the robot, but in the contact I’ve made with human carers – selfless, good-humoured, unsung heroes. It’ll be a long time before a robot can replace any of them. Seeing them stubbornly continuing to honour the totality of a person’s life and humanity, even as it diminishes in front of them, has been humbling. This is why I felt that our story should also take in the couple when they first meet, their early awkward, teenage photo-steve-tanner4romance, at their silliest, a full future ahead of them, and in their prime. Alzheimer’s is a dark theme for a play. But as audiences have attested so far, there are laughs, and plenty of them, in amongst the tears.

 

I really hope you’ll come along and jump on the rollercoaster with us. Afterwards there’s a special ‘Q&A with a difference’, where you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the robot.

Spillikin – A Love Story is performed in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse on Friday 24 February 2017 at 7.45pm as part of Theatre Fest West. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Spillikin is a collaboration with Engineered Arts, makers of the ground-breaking, cutting edge Robothespian.

Coming alive again through love

Hedydd Dylan, who plays Lady Chatterley, tells us a little about the production

 

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For those who don’t already know the story, what can you tell us about Lady Chatterley’s Lover?

It’s primarily a love story but there’s so much more to it as well. It’s set during the aftermath of the First World War. It’s set against a backdrop of social unrest. Communities are trying to piece themselves back together after the trauma of the war. Working men are revolting against the wealthy because they realise that the camaraderie that they had during the war is over and capitalism is dividing people again. It’s a theme that’s still very relevant today – in terms of the disparity of wealth in society and the tension that causes.

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Lady Chatterley’s husband was injured in the war. He’s in a wheelchair and they can’t have a child together. She’s more of a carer to her husband than a wife.  She’s struggling with depression, feeling numb to the world, but she finds a way back to herself through a love affair with a game-keeper called Mellors. Phillip Breen, the director, has done a lovely job of projecting her emotional change through the changing of the seasons. She returns to herself with the beautiful arrival of summer. She comes alive again through love.

What attracted you to the role of Lady Chatterley?

As an actor you’re incredibly privileged if you’re able to play a character who hardly leaves the stage. It gives you the opportunity to build a character very gradually. It’s wonderful when an audience is able to share every step of the journey with you and watch your character change during the course of a play.

It’s also quite a strong story from a feminist point of view. We’ve been very careful not to objectify Lady Chatterley in this presentation. Not to make her sexy or pornographic in the typical sense. She’s just a human being with a right to physical pleasure. I love that. And I enjoy that the nudity in our production is very innocent.

It’s interesting that you mention the innocence of the nudity. Phillip Breen mentioned that he wanted the couple’s first time together to be slightly ‘unsuccessful.’ How do you go about rehearsing a sex scene that is more tender than raunchy?jonah-russell-and-hedydd-dylan-in-lady-chatterleys-lover-photo-by-mark-douet

I suppose just by being honest. We’re exposed to sex quite a lot these days and it’s often portrayed in an unrealistic way. At the start of rehearsals we talked about awkward first encounters and what they were like. We didn’t want to make it too sexy. We mapped out the ways in which sex can be awkward. All those little physical difficulties, like getting your underwear caught on your shoe as you undress. That sort of thing. It’s quite sweet how things don’t always flow when two people don’t know each other yet.

This story is often thought of as a very sexy story. My grandparents’ generation used to hide their copies behind brown paper covers or read it in secret under the covers with torches. It’s hard to think of a book being so shocking in this day and age. To us, it’s simply the story of two people who fall in love.

People certainly aren’t as shocked now as they used to be, but do you think there’s something about the immediacy of theatre that makes the depiction of sex on stage different to sex in literature or on screen?

Absolutely. I’m not quite sure why that is. Perhaps it’s because you’re never alone in a theatre and you worry about how people will judge your reaction. We do occasionally get some nervous giggles from the audience the first time the lovers take their clothes off in front of each other – which, incidentally, is not the first time they have sex. The characters are shy about their nudity and it’s nice that the audience is a bit shy as well. It’s like we’re all children again, not knowing quite how to react.

The book was famously banned for a very long time. Do you ever feel it’s ever right to censor what people write?

That’s a minefield of a question! I do believe in freedom of speech but I suppose I draw a line when someone promotes abuse, sexism, racism or any other kind of hate.

This production marks the centenary of the Somme. Was that timing deliberate?

Certainly. It’s important to remember people who sacrificed their lives – on both sides – but it’s also important to remember those who survived but lived on with the consequences of the war. There’s more to remembering the War than just remembering the fighting.

D. H. Lawrence hoped that tenderness could build a better world after the war. Do you think that message still applies today?

There’s a sense of masculinity that’s still encouraged in young boys today. Phrases like ‘don’t be a wuss’ and ‘man up’ teach men that it is shameful to be emotional. Shameful to cry. I think it’s no coincidence that suicide is the leading cause of death among men under the age of 25. That’s ahead of car accidents. D. H. Lawrence recognised that men should be allowed to be soft and there’s still progress to be made.

Are you excited about coming to Salisbury?

Yes! I’ve never been before but I’ve heard wonderful things. I can’t wait to walk around town and pop into the Cathedral.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, an English Touring Theatre and Sheffield Theatres production, visits the Main House at Salisbury Playhouse from Tuesday 8 to Saturday 12 November 2016. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Production photos by Mark Douet

 

Don’t try this at home!

Actor Stu Mcloughlin, soon to be appearing in the new production of FRANKENSTEIN which opens this Thursday, travelled to Manchester to have his head cast for one of the props.

Please note: this was carried out by qualified professionals using specialist equipment. Please don’t try this at home.

FRANKENSTEIN is a Salisbury Playhouse and Living Spit production and runs in the Main House at Salisbury Playhouse from Thursday 20 October to Saturday 5 November 2016. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Update from the Workshop team

Deputy Head of Workshop Laura Davies updates us on what the team has been getting up to.

As usual, it’s been an interesting week in the workshop. We’re getting the last few bits together for Frankenstein. Last week I welded together the framework of a tree using frankenstein-at-salisbury-playhousevarious sizes of steel tube.  I was really pleased with it, especially as it has some special effects built in. However, this week it looks even better! Our scenic artist has done some amazing polystyrene cladding and carving and suddenly it really looks like we’ve got a tree growing at the end of the workshop.

 
We’re also working on some gothic props – there’s currently a coffin and two bespoke headstones hanging around. It looks a bit like we’re getting ready for Halloween.

 
Tomorrow is going to be a big day too. We’re going to need all the help we can get from the technical team so that we can stand up a rather large wall of planking. It’s the main piece of set, and it’s about 11 metres wide. At the moment it’s lying on the floor and it already looks big, so once it’s stood up it’s really going to dominate the workshop.

What’s exciting is that next week it will all move around and the workshop will be different again as we fit up Frankenstein on the main stage and start work on the double bill of Christmas shows in The Salberg.

Frankenstein, a Salisbury Playhouse and Living Spit production, runs in the Main House from Thursday 20 October to Saturday 5 November 2016. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit the show page on our website.

A sneak peek at the Peer Gynt costumes

Stage 65 Youth Theatre has been busy rehearsing for its Main House summer production of Peer GyntWe popped up to the Wardrobe department to take a sneak peek at some of the costumes.

Peer Gynt is designed by Hannah Wolfe.

Peer Gynt runs in the Main House at Salisbury Playhouse from Tuesday 23 to Thursday 25 August 2016. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Peer Gynt rehearsal blog

Stage 65 Youth Theatre is in the middle of another busy week of rehearsals for Peer Gynt. We caught up with a few of the cast members to find out more about the characters they are playing and what they are enjoying most about rehearsals.

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Charlie Thomas: I am playing the title character of Peer Gynt in the entire first act of the play; it is a genuine honour to portray a character with so many levels to him. He has a lot of unique characteristics that make his image change from scene to scene. This varies from genuinely detestable (in scenes such as the wedding scene), to genuine pain and sympathy toward the end of the first act.

The rehearsal process is so enjoyable too – Dave’s individual directing style really allows me to thrive in the role. LydiaStamps_PGynt-25 web

Megs Slark: My character, Ase, is Peer Gynt’s mother. She represents many facets of the archetypical maternal figure, acting as a weakness for Peer Gynt’s otherwise hardened shell of insensitivity. She is an anchor, pulling him home and representing a safe place of ‘normality’ and innocence in his mind. She herself is a cynical, toughened woman. She has given everything to her life and had very little in return, and this contradictory base to her existence explains her bipolar approach to parenting her son. Simultaneously loving and hating him, she foreshadows his fate to face purgatory at the end of the play.

I have enjoyed working with people close to my own age that are focused intently on their depth of performance. It has been a joy to bounce ideas around a rehearsal room of others on the same wavelength as me as it makes me feel like the show is coming alive without us having to force it.

Sebastien Varrannes: I play a number of different characters including a troll and a monkey.

It is good fun being with friends and I am enjoying making monkey noises though I am tired from jumping about!

Oliver Hopkins: Besides several ensemble roles, I play ‘Passenger’ in Peer Gynt and I am a member of the Band, ‘The Egotists’, who will be playing live, exciting and original music during the play.  Passenger, who is a strange and reserved man, meets a broke and ruined Peer as he travels home by boat.  He wants to make use of Peer’s corpse to discover the origin of dreams and when the ship crashes perhaps Passenger will get what he wants.

LydiaStamps_PGynt-39 webRehearsals are going really well and it’s great to work alongside Director Dave Orme as we workshop ideas and bring the play to life.  It’s also great to work alongside Composer David Lewington as the band perfects every note and chord to accompany the play.  Peer Gynt is certainly going to be a fantastic production and one not to miss!

Chloe Marshall: I’m in the chorus of women who act as narrators throughout the play, representing the hypothetical women that Peer, or men like Peer, have wronged. They portray the detrimental effects of the behaviour that men like Peer project to the world, more specifically the women they come into contact with, and give a different perspective on Peer’s journey throughout the play.

I’m enjoying the group of which I’m part of and getting to act in a role that depicts the attitudes and opinions of women as valid and an important part of the play as a whole.

Laura Melville

I’m also part of the chorus of women. Peer Gynt can be a bit erratic and weird at times, so hopefully we are a reassuring and helpful presence! We’ve a got a lot of personality too as we speak for all the women wronged by Peer: we can stand up to him when we need to.LydiaStamps_PGynt-20 web

I am really enjoying seeing it all come together. Scripts can sometimes be hard to interpret and visualise, especially a new adaptation which has never been done before. In rehearsals though, vocalising the dialogue and making the characters physical and real has been really exciting – it makes it easier to see the story as a whole, and we can realise Dave’s vision for it as a cast.

65 young people are taking part in Peer Gynt which runs in the Main House at Salisbury Playhouse from Tuesday 23 to Thursday 25 August 2016. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Photos by Lydia Stamps

Creating Flying Solo

FLYING SOLO copyToday is Marathon Day.

Join Amber as she races against the clock, herself, and a man with a fridge on his back.

She’s trained hard, she’s been eating right, she’s ready to run, she loves to run. Nothing can hold her back.

But the past is slippery, and no matter how fast you run – your memories are always lying in wait, ready to trip you up.

This heart-warming, heart-rending, extraordinary one-woman show from acclaimed writer-performer Manjeet Mann asks the question of how easy it really is to leave home.

Manjeet writes a personal blog about the process of creating Flying Solo.

Hello! My name’s Manjeet and I really hope you will ALL be coming to see my one person play Flying Solo! Here is a little bit about me, the play and why I decided to write it. Enjoy…FlyingSolo3

So around about this time last year I had decided to wave goodbye to acting. I always wanted to write a play so in the beginning I wrote Flying Solo as my last ‘hurrah’ to the acting industry. My other job was a personal trainer and I figured I was getting more enjoyment out of that, whilst making a real difference to the quality of my clients’ lives.

I’d been talking about writing my own show for a couple of years so I thought I’d make my last acting project the solo show I’d always talked about but never written.

I’ve always been interested in how childhood traumas can affect adult mental health, which is one of the themes running through Flying Solo. It’s a personal story, which is why I’m so passionate about it. However, it’s not completely autobiographical; it’s a semi-autobiographical story.

It’s about a woman who decided to find the courage within herself to go against following the path her parents had laid out for her. It also deals with issues surrounding elderly care, lost childhoods and mental health. There are bits that are based on my childhood experiences, and when my father passed away I had a really difficult time. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was having a breakdown.

I was spending most of my days sleeping and figured I needed something to give me a reason to leave the safety of my bed. I knew from my own training as a personal trainer that endurance exercise is excellent for mental health. I signed up for the Edinburgh Marathon and didn’t look back. It turned my life around.

In the play the marathon is more of a metaphor for life. The events that surround it are partly real. (I actually ran the London Marathon this year for MIND. It was one of the most uplifting and emotional days I’ve had!).

Flying Solo is a universal story about childhood, growing up and mental health. It’s ultimately uplifting in the end, so I hope it makes people feel that no matter what your past experiences are you are in charge of your future. Just like a marathon if you hit ‘the wall’ you can choose to let it beat you or you can pick yourself up and keep going.

FlyingSolo4Writing and performing (and producing!) your own show is perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve done. The sheer amount of work that has brought me to this point is ridiculous.  Not only that but it is so exposing! Performing your own work leaves you vulnerable and scared; everyday you battle with that fear, wanting to give up because it’s just too darn hard and you think that everyone is going to hate you and your work, and you are perhaps the worst person in the universe at acting, writing and being a human. All the bad stuff you think about yourself rises up and is magnified one hundred times over, and you cry. A lot.

Something kept me going, and I didn’t know how to articulate that until I read Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. (FYI I Love Amy Poehler, Tina  Fey, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham – basically ANY woman who is writing and performing and producing her own work. I’m so inspired by these ladies; they keep me going when I doubt myself which is around every half hour or so). Anyway, here is the passage from Amy’s book that changed everything for me:

“Here is the thing. Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car. It’s never going to leave its wife. Your career is sleeping with other people and everyone knows but you. Your career will never marry you. 

Creativity is different. Creativity is connected to your passion, the light inside you that drives you. The joy that comes when you do something you love….Career is different…it’s the stringing together of opportunities and jobs…Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t.

You have to care about your work but not the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.”

I’m not pretending I’m any good at this; it’s  a work in progress but I feel far more in control of my future now I’ve taken it into my own hands. I still audition and I work other acting jobs around my own writing. A lot of actors feel they need someone to give them a job in order to be creative and do what they love.  I say take the power back! The only reason I wanted to give up acting was because my ‘career’ wasn’t where I wanted it to be. No one is stopping me from creating my own work though, and when I write something I know I can produce it and put it in front of an audience.  It just takes A LOT of hard work and facing/exposing all the ugly parts of yourself, but it’s worth it, because I’m in charge and that’s really liberating.

So, that’s all from me. I hope to see you all in September!

Flying Solo plays in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 September 2016. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

The design concept for Stage 65’s Peer Gynt

Designer Hannah Wolfe tells us about the design concept for Peer Gynt, Stage 65 Youth Theatre’s new production. Hannah’s recent work with Stage 65 includes Clause 39 and Stay Brave Brian Gravy.

Dave Orme [director and adapter] and I have worked together before and have a similar way of approaching projects so the design for Peer Gynt came together quite quickly. Firstly, we were clear in our minds that we wanted to do a contemporary version of the piece. It was important to us that the cast could relate to the characters and that they had a sense of ownership over the story and the choices they made on stage. So it became a matter of deciding the context within which to set our re-telling and it made sense to start by exploring the character of Peer Gynt in order to unlock it.

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Costume design for Peer Gynt. Designed by Hannah Wolfe. 

[Peer] is a character who lives by his wits. He is fickle and always on the lookout for opportunities, yet he is also ultimately rooted to his community and family. So we started looking at transient peoples with strong links to nature and landscape and eventually concentrated our research on travelling communities in Eastern Europe. Their emphasis on family ties, their ability to make the best from any situation and the sense of not being able to place them in a specific time or place really leant itself to Ibsen’s story.

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Images of the set model for Peer Gynt. Designed by Hannah Wolfe.

The set needed to be as adaptable as possible, given how many different locations are written into the script, but with enough space to allow a large number of people on stage at any given time. And we decided on an industrial setting rather than a pastoral one to best serve all the locations in the story.

We really hope that the abstract nature of the piece and Peer’s mercurial nature is supported by the design and that the cast enjoys performing in this setting as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

Peer Gynt runs in the Main House at Salisbury Playhouse from 23 to 25 August 2016. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Q&A with Night Must Fall’s Niamh McGrady and Will Featherstone

Niamh McGrady and Will Featherstone took some time out of the Night Must Fall launch to chat with us about the play and why they love telling stories.

What attracted you to Night Must Fall?

Niamh: I find the character [Olivia] very intriguing and challenging and she kind of scares me. And for some reason I’ve got this weird thing where I have to do things that really scare me. It’s a really interesting play and, for me personally, I haven’t done theatre in a million years. I have been craving something that will really stretch me so this just had “challenge” written all over it.

Will: It’s a really, really intriguing play – in a seemingly serene world walks this seemingly kind of psychopathic, angry young man but, the more you read it, the more you realise actually it is much cleverer than that. Something has happened in this young man’s life to make him really, really angry but it’s completely covered with a front that is so smooth-talking, so charming. In short it’s a fascinatingly complex psychological study of a man, written in 1935, that is every bit as resonant now and I am really interested in looking at the play more to see why Emlyn Williams wrote that. He’s written an incredibly modern character.  It’s a really fun part to play, I think, because of what’s motoring him within versus that charming exterior, and the relationship you have with the audience with that.

Have you performed in a thriller before?NMF LEAFLET image-page001.jpg

Niamh: I’ve been working on The Fall but I think TV is such a different beast.

Will: It’s not something I’ve done a lot of. I once did a production of Motortown by Simon Stephens which was again charged by another angry but different young man coming back from war. This is a new challenge.

How do you like to prepare before rehearsals begin?

Will: I think we’re going to have to get it up on its feet very early because there are so many questions to answer. With that in mind, and with being in front of the audience in three weeks, I am going to try and be as familiar with it as possible. I can think about it a lot beforehand and I can certainly try and get as many lines in as possible so, after one or two rehearsals of each scene, hopefully it’s stuck.

What do you like most about live theatre?

Will: For me it’s a genuine sense of communion with people and sharing something. A lot of the jobs I’ve done have been at places like The Globe where you are really, really with people and the audience is completely cherished in that relationship. I think it is really important that we share things, especially shows like this that have a really modern sense about them and a disaffected youth and the sense of anger that can come from that. And the sense that you make people behave badly if you completely treat them like another. It seems that that’s what Dan’s struggling with – he’s been treated like another all his life and that’s when his anger comes out. I think there are a lot of people in this country who feel they have been completely unheard, that they do not have a voice and that leads to people behaving really badly. I think it is really amazing to be able to share stories like that with people, potentially in venues where they relate to that.

Niamh: It’s much more immediate. It’s live, it’s visceral; certainly for me the thrill of theatre is playing a whole journey from start to finish in one go. Because with TV you get out two or three lines then “Cut!” So what happens in your brain is you start to fragment everything into this beat, this beat, this beat… you don’t get to go through the whole emotion ever because ultimately an editor sticks all that together. So this is my challenge. Olivia’s a really complicated character but the joy of it is playing through the whole range of emotions from start to finish. That’s the thrill of theatre.

Will: You’re absolutely right. The idea of getting to the end of the night and telling a story; your involvement in those beats and being really present is something to be celebrated.

Niamh: That’s why we all do it – to tell stories and connect with people.

Night Must Fall rehearsals begin on Monday 25 July and it runs at Salisbury Playhouse from 6 to 24 September 2016 ahead of a national tour. Night Must Fall is a Salisbury Playhouse and Original Theatre Company production in association with Eastbourne Theatres.