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BWW Review: NEXT FALL at Holden Street Theatres

Darrin Redgate's first Adelaide production.

BWW Review: NEXT FALL at Holden Street Theatres Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Wednesday 28th April 2021.

Whether you are a believer in the power of God or the power of theatre, this production, Next Fall, Darrin Redgate's first in Adelaide, is marked by a compelling sense of ensemble from a cast whose personification of their characters is a joy to experience. It's beautifully paced and focussed. It's also very funny. It touched me lightly and, sometimes, very directly, and, days after seeing it, it keeps coming to mind.

Luke has been hit by a cab. His divorced parents reunite at the hospital, his friends gather and Adam, his partner of four years, flies in. Luke's parents know nothing of his gay life. Adam can't tell them.

The story of their first meeting and subsequent life together is told with humour and insight, flashing backwards and forwards in time.

Adam, Matt Hyde, and Luke, Tom Murdock, meet outside a party. Adam is choking and afraid. Luke delivers the Heimlich manoeuvre with a covert motive; how better to get your hands on an attractive, highly-strung man.

Their onstage rapport must date back to their playing alongside each other in the recent Independent Theatre production of Bent, another play of guilt, sacrifice, and redemption.

Their big conflict, the spine of the play, is simple. Luke believes in God, and heaven, and the love of Jesus. Oh yes, and also in the Rapture, that ridiculous, non-canonical belief that Jesus will summon all the righteous and they will float up to heaven, leaving us sinners behind. He prays a grace silently before meals, and frequently after sex. He keeps trying to get Adam to surrender his heart to the Lord. Luke has made peace with the fact that his homosexuality is considered a sin. His friend Brandon at one point confesses to Adam that he only has sex with black men and won't risk any emotional commitment. Jason Jeffries brings a quiet and supportive dignity to the role, but Clare Sara, as Holly the employer and best friend, is the quiet source of comfort.

Luke's belief is the thing that finally gives Adam some resolution after his partner's death. Luke expected to go to heaven and, therefore, would have been happy to die, a comfort denied to so many. Oh yes, and Luke is an organ donor, his heart will go to a sick mother of two young children. What stops the play from being a saccharine love story is the skill of the company.

Brendan Cooney may not be the father figure you expect, after all, he's called Butch, but Cooney turns in a slow-burning characterisation leading to an unexpected climax. His ex-wife, the former hippy, gives Lisa Lanzi the room she needs for a larger-than-life persona, masking a deep care for her son.

Am I the only person to suspect that there is a double meaning in the title of the play? The first fall is the fall of man, as Adam and, in this case, Eve disobey God and are expelled from paradise into mortality. The next fall then becomes the personal fall from grace as Luke, despite his religious upbringing, engages in the sin of, what? Falling in love with another man? Leviticus is against it.

The gospel of Luke is one of forgiveness and understanding. "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged", etc.

It takes place in Beth Israel hospital. This play is a parable.

Geoffrey Naufft's play premiered in New York in 2009, and nothing much has changed. It's going to be a few years before the influence of the Southern Baptist Alliance is purged from American society and, via the Australian clone, Hillsong, from ours.

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