The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings









New Jersey




LINKS Masthead
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
All That Fall

Never thought about radio play technique but in the dead of the other night got a nice gruesome idea full of cartwheels and dragging of feet and puffing and panting which may or may not lead to something. — Samuel Beckett writing to his friend Nancy Cunard
All That Fall
Michael Gambon as Mr Rooney and Eileen Atkins as Mrs Rooney
(Photo: Polly Hancock)
Jermyn Street Theatre is a tiny space yet it sees a very prestigious cast and director for the rarity of staging of Samuel Beckett''s 1956 radio play All That Fall. It has been staged by director Sir Trevor Nunn as if were being recorded with old fashioned microphones suspended from the ceiling lest we forget it was a radio play. Dame Eileen Atkins plays Mr Rooney, wife of the blind Mr Rooney (Sir Michael Gambon) whom she is to meet off a train at the railway station.

The cast in costume, sit on benches at either end of the stage waiting to take part. They speak their parts holding scripts. There are sheep baaing, birds singing and farmyard animals, maybe pigs snoring, should we not realise from other clues that this is the countryside. We hear cartwheels on gravel and Mrs Rooney dragging her swollen feet and ankles. These sound cues are detailed in Beckett's script which is probably his most accessible and audience friendly.

The play concentrates on Mrs Rooney's journey and all the local characters she meets on the way. This is an area where everyone knows everyone elses business and they all enquire about the health of relatives. She first meets Christie (Ruairi Conaghan) a carter and commends him on his frankness in her own candid way. We are told about Little Minnie, the daughter the Rooneys have lost as a child. She muses that if Minnie had lived now she would be of an age when, "she would be girding up her loins, ready for the change."  Mr Tyler (Frank Grimes) meets her on his bike. Mr Slocombe (Gerard Horum) the clerk of the racecourse will try to give her lift and literally be stuck with trying to lift and wedge the very stiff and supposedly very obese Mrs Rooney into the cab of his vehicle. She describes herself as "a big, pale blur." Now Eileen Atkins is very slim so this is casting for radio!

What makes this production is the utterly compelling Eileen Atkins with the gloriously comic asides from Beckett as she divulges every detail and eccentrically comments on herself and others. "It is suicide to be abroad . . . . but what is it to be at home?" she asks. Her humour is self deprecating and her range of expression a master class in acting. There is excellent support from James Hayes' grumpy Station Master, Mr Barrell and the spinster Miss Fitt (Catherine Cusack) whom Mrs Rooney calls "the dark Miss Fitt." Miss Fitt goes on and on and Eileen Atkins spins slowly towards us, her eyes conveying the agony of enduring Miss Fitt's monologue.

Michael Gambon arrives late and is rather sullen and morose. He is bad tempered towards his wife as he recalls being buried alive in his office yet we also see a moment of tenderness between husband and wife. I will not reveal why he is late and how that will trouble both Rooneys. It is almost criminal that so few will be able to see this production. The waiting list is closed at Jermyn Street and the staff there must be daily disappointing those hoping to see it. Could All That Fall be filmed so that acting students might see this brilliant production for posterity? I feel very privileged to have seen it.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
All That Fall
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Trevor Nunn

Starring: Eileen Atkins, Michael Gambon, James Hayes, Gerard Horan, Frank Grimes, Catherine Cusack, Ruari Conaghan,
With: Ian Conningham, Aidan Dunlop/Oliver Barry-Brook
Designed by Cherry Truluck
Lighting: Phil Hewitt
Sound: Paul Groothuis
Running time: One hour 15 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7287 2875
Sold out to 3rd November 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 11th October 2012 at Jermyn Street Theatre, 16B Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of All That Fall
  • I disagree with the review of All That Fall
  • The review made me eager to see All That Fall
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2012, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from