Hot Show * * * *
The Fall of Man

by Sally Stott
Published: 24/8/2009

A tale of infidelity and lust, The Fall of Man is full of beautifully detailed observations. A brooding intensity is prevalent throughout this tale of infidelity and lust. From the actors' compellingly urgent performances to the intimate space the play is staged in, there's a sense of pressure and tension from all corners. Loosely based on Milton's Paradise Lost, the play follows the demise of an affair between Peter, and the family's young Lolita-esque nanny. Peter's failure to remain faithful to his wife is mirrored by his inability to fully participate in his new relationship. Simultaneously, our flirtatious home help sacrifices her integrity for more material concerns. Both briefly experience the joy of true fulfilment, but it is swiftly gone.
The poetic imagery of Milton's classic is dynamically juxtaposed against the work of contemporary writer Jonathan Holloway, who captures his two characters through beautifully observed and stylistically distinctive dialogue. As the charmingly irreverence of youth is contrasted against disillusionment in old age, we're asked to examine our own thoughts towards everlasting love and underlying desire. While the story is a familiar one, Holloway's perspective is original and the play is filled with beautifully detailed observations. He cleverly shifts the piece from being purely about physical attraction to also deal with the mundane everyday occurrences that are part of life more generally - from the differing moods that the characters experience to the arbitrary things that pop into their heads. Consequently, what we learn about Peter and his nymph-like lover resonates far beyond the fact that they are simply having an affair.
Graeme Rose and Stephanie Day give warm, passionate and engaging performances as the couple who are both enthralled yet simultaneously appalled by one another. The chemistry between them is at times electrifying, with repressed sexual tension building up to an explosive conclusion. Red Shift are a terrific company who have been creating innovative theatre at the Fringe for many years (their last piece was the acclaimed Get Carter in 2006). Once again, they have created another provocative piece - on the surface a small story of a briefly lived-out relationship, but more fundamentally, a tribute to the kind of fleeting passions that make life worth living.

The Guardian

Lyn Gardner

"The banality of the scenario and the sexual stereotypes are deliberate here. It is not the way that the tale pans out to its eventual and inevitable sordid end that matters, so much as the way the story is told. Working with only a bed, three simple lights and Sarah Llewellyn's insistent soundscape, the production creates an intense intimacy that implicates its audience; you feel slightly soiled watching it. It also boasts two assured and brave performances, from co-director Graeme Rose as Peter and Stephanie Day as the nanny".

The Scotsman: * * * * (featured Hot Show) "they have created another provocative piece - on the surface a small story of a briefly lived-out relationship, but more fundamentally, a tribute to the kind of fleeting passions that make life worth living." Three Weeks: * * * * "A bold, impressively performed production that endows a difficult literary work with graphic contemporary resonance." * * * * "In the intimate space, barely lit by small domestic light bulbs, good performances are drawn from both performers in this strong hard hitting performance" Metro: * * * * "Casting the audience as culpable voyeurs by having us cluster round their bed, this is a branding iron of sex and guilt." * * * * "This is a superbly inventive and beautifully adapted piece that grips the audience in a vice and refuses to let them escape." The List: * * *, Fringe * * *, The Guardian: * * * , Broadway Baby: * * *, What's on * * *, British Theatre Guide: * * *, Fest/The Skinny: * * *, Edinburgh Insider: * * *

[ratings explained (The List): * * * * "highly recommended", * * * "recommended"]
" 2009 highlights include... Red Shift Theatre['s] new piece The Fall of Man" official website of the Edinburgh Fringe
"The Edinburgh Fringe's reputation for presenting the most innovative work anywhere is maintained this year with shows including… Red Shift Theatre['s] return with The Fall of Man"

METRO Newspapers

Paradise lost in The Fall Of ManTheatre, Review: The Fall Of Man
By NADINE MCBAY - Sunday, August 16, 2009

* * * *
Last seen in Edinburgh in 2006 with their gritty, bleak Get Carter, Fringe veterans Red Shift return with The Fall Of Man, a modern reworking of Milton's Paradise Lost as a poem about a pair of doomed lovers.

Interspersing original dialogue by Red Shift founder Jonathan Holloway with excerpts from the poem, it's set in the chilly bedsit of Slovenian nanny Veronica (Stephanie Day). She's visited by Peter (Graeme Rose, who also co-directs), the man whose marriage bed she dutifully makes. As the bells toll in Sarah Llewellyn's creeping, sensual score, it's clear from Peter's first carnal look at Veronica that whatever relationship they have will unravel like a puppy bouncing after a toilet roll.

Accenting Veronica as an object of carnal desire, there are a couple of moments when Rose's expression wears everything you need to know about this piece emotionally: the giddy desire, the hope of a new beginning, the shame of deceit and what Veronica refers to as his 'dirty old man' sleaze.
Casting the audience as culpable voyeurs by having us cluster round their bed, this is a branding iron of sex and guilt.
The Fall of Man Review 9th Aug 2009

* * * *
… the action alternates between dialogue and monologue excerpts from Milton's original to great affect, using the language to reflect the scene that's passed and evoke the next. This is a superbly inventive and beautifully adapted piece that grips the audience in a vice and refuses to let them escape. It brilliantly highlights the temptation of Milton's piece, with the flesh of the fatal apple in the Garden of Eden compared to the flesh of the actors on display in coarse, guttural theatre not for the faint-hearted. Effectively delivered by Rose and Day, they play their characters with outstanding conviction, starting with uncontrollable lust but developing into violent assassins for each others hearts as jealousy and selfishness become unbearable; scenes flickering between humorous conversations, poetic reflection and raging, invidious outbursts. Summed up best in Veronica's line to Peter, 'Everything is a deal', Holloway keeps it moving at such a beat that emotional outlines are starkly surfaced; highlighting that humanity is inherently selfish in this skillfully reflective, dark and brooding piece.

Audience Reviews: Edinburgh
"Very intimate and beautiful, the honest writing triggered laughs of recognition, and the intense mood is impossible to escape. Yes this show told a story that has been told before, but from a perspective not seen before. I really recommend seeing this show."

"Intense and claustrophobic, this is how fringe theatre should make you feel (if you ARE claustrophobic this is a tiny, hot venue.) The two actors are convincing, maintain an electric tension and the modern day narrative drives the play along at some pace. The fastest 50 minutes of the festival so far. Excellent, absorbing stuff."

"MUST SEE!!! 09 Aug 2009. Full of energy, this first class show is well written, performed and has visual impact. The and director should win the nobel prize for literature… …drama, full energy that grips the audience throughout… If you like meaningful Drama and see nothing else this festival - go and see this."

The List : 10th Aug 2009
An affair between middle-aged, middle-class Peter and his children's Slavic nanny is told with contemporary dialogue and passages from Paradise Lost recited as private thoughts. Milton's long lines feel rushed and therefore unlike real-life musings, but powerful body language, unnerving music, and the clash of native and non-native idioms and priorities create loaded moments.

The Fall of Man

Low Down
This is a play of juxtaposition: high poetry and carnal nudity, myth and modernity, coarseness and sweetness. Paradise Lost is quoted and a simple and effective story is delivered, and these two mingle and align as the intertwining bodies on the single piece of staging: a creaky bed. While small technical faults jar, the piece and its performance are sexy and gratuitous, combining a fun romp with the sometimes fraught politics of sexual relationships, and make this piece delightfully watchable despite the sometimes heavy emotional content.
The Fall of Man asks a lot from its audience. We are squeezed into Pleasance Beside, almost sitting at the foot of the bed where the action takes place. The story is simple indeed: a husband and an au-pair start an affair, which ends with the shattered dream that their love can conquer the inevitable politics and boundaries of their situation. This is coupled with the story of Paradise Lost, narrated by either character as their situation emulates a moment from Milton's classic. The husband is likened to Satan, falling from grace as he falls in love with another, while the au pair becomes Eve, realising her shame as she and the husband start to realise how little life their flawed relationship has. This back and forth is punctuated by overt sexuality and nudity, with both actors being nearly completed naked for most of their time on stage and the Apple of Knowledge being likened to a blowjob. As crass as that sounds, the interplay between sex, myth, and real-life is a sumptuous concoction, and enhances rather than overshadows each aspect of the production.

The sex and nudity is touchingly simple, and, when juxtaposed with the poetry directly, as during the actual blowjob scene, surprisingly effective. However, this overt gratuity is played in strangely staccato fashion. Both actors may be nude or nigh on, but when the scene is not of a particularly sexual nature, they are making a constant nature to cover themselves with the ever-present duvet and pillows. It is not clear whether this is embarrassment or part of the staging, but it doesn't invite audience involvement. This is further compounded by the jumpy technical cues, similarly staccato, which seemed more like errors and less like a polished and professional cues.

The acting is, in contrast, beautifully slick. Stephanie Day and Graeme Rose slide gracefully in and out of Milton's poetry, and their own story is played touchingly and effectively. Their writhing, at times, suffers from the above-mentioned staging, but more often than not is pleasantly natural. Rose, in particular, transitions well between repressed husband and demonic story-teller, and enlivens the tale beautifully. It is disappointing that this watchability does not translate to the production, but not a major fault: this is a gutsy and well-performed piece, and a shockingly carnal physicalisation of the Adam and Eve mythos; with so many pieces about the Garden of Eden at this Festival, this is certainly one of the highlights.
Reviewed by Chris Hislop 12/08/09

Fest/ The Skinny
The Fall of Man
Posted by Lyle Brennan, Fri 21 Aug 2009

Since the early 1980s, Red Shift has gained a reputation for innovative theatre and this latest piece comes as no exception. Initially, the premise seems straightforward - Peter (Graeme Rose), a middle-class, married professional becomes entangled in an affair with Veronica (Stephanie Day), the Slovenian nanny who cares for his children - but the moment Rose lapses into a monologue lifted from John Milton's Paradise Lost, this domestic drama assumes a whole new tone. What begins in sin inevitably descends into misery and the way in which declarations of love slide so rapidly into conflict is made all the more compelling by solid performances from both actors.
Rose is particularly impressive, spitting out Milton's lines with suitably apocalyptic gravity one minute, before snapping back to smarmy, desperate love rat the next. Jonathan Holloway's script demands a considerable degree of physicality throughout and, naked for much of the play, Rose and Day are unfalteringly bold in simulating sex and violence.
Performed in the round against an intimate set comprising just a single bed, this is never gratuitous, simply visceral.

Excellent Performances In A Gripping Play
The Fall Of Man is a reinvention of Milton's Paradise Lost, set in a bedsit in 2006. It tells the story of an Eastern European woman who has come to England to work for a couple, primarily assisting the wife and looking after the children. She and the husband embark upon an affair which develops throughout the play. Initially, it appears to be a standard story of a man taking advantage of a naïve, vulnerable woman but as it unfolds we learn more about their motives and desires and it becomes less clear who is taking advantage of whom.

Most of the action takes place in or on the bed in the bedsit, with strong language, nudity and sexual situations. The audience surrounds the stage on three sides and is very close, giving a strong sense of immediacy and reality to the performances. It feels like we're eavesdropping on something very private and intense.

Both actors are extremely good, giving strong, realistic performances. There is no sense of playing to the audience; they could almost be alone in a claustrophobic bedsit.

Interspersed with the story are short readings from Paradise Lost. For me, this does not work so well, probably because I've never read it, and I'm not sure that it adds a great deal to the performances. Even so, the play is worth seeing for its strong storyline and excellent acting.