The current transformation of the postage stamp stage of Barons Court Theatre, located in the cellar vaults of The Curtains Up pub, has been wrought by Designer Jane Linz Roberts, for fell by Chris Salt of Edgeways Productions. This subterranean cavern is very deceptive and on entering one would imagine that the pillars would always be in the way, but the sight lines are excellent from any seat and the two big stumpy brick supports often come in useful as part of the set, even if only to lean things against.
A well-crafted story, sensitively directed and performed with integrity
Roberts manages to create several locations in the mountains of the Lake District where Jake (Tom Claxton), a drop-out, alternative-lifestyle recluse, spends his days shooting game or setting traps with his companion dog and also catching fish. The rivers and streams also provide water and a place to wash clothes, which is what we find him doing as the play opens. The sound of running water is one of several effects, along with the whistling wind, the rain and a helicopter that Roberts and Director Janys Chambers have effectively woven into fell to give a vivid sense of place and circumstances.
Jake's solitary existence is interrupted by the arrival of Lyle (Ned Cooper), a local lad who has wandered up the hillside instead of going into school, although he set out with good intentions and is wearing his uniform. Jake had seen him lurking around from a distance so was not surprised when he turned up at his latest camp, hungry and thirsty.
The two contrasting figures are now thrown together in an adventure that will carry surprises as Jake queries what Lyle is up to and the lad in turn uncovers the layers of life that have brought him here. Cooper convincingly captures the age and essence of the socially inept and naive fifteen-year-old boy, who is not without his moments of wit and humour. Claxton, meanwhile exudes the confidence Jake has, built on the knowledge and experience of a young man who has learnt the art of survival and how to fend for himself. Both actors are completely secure in their roles and know how to create convincing characters and interact with precise timing. Jakes skills will sustain Lyle and the care he has for him will ultimately allow him to reveal what has been going on in his life. All the elements combine to make fell an intriguing and heartwarming tale, initially full of mystery, followed by turns of events and finally a tragic confession.
It’s a real joy to watch a compelling play in old-style story form. There are no complexities of meaning or interpretations and symbolism with which to grapple. This is a well-crafted story, sensitively directed and performed with integrity.