Multi award winning Next Fall opened in New York in 2009 to huge critical acclaim before transferring to the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway in 2010, where it was produced by Sir Elton John and David Furnish. This version, directed by Luke Sheppard at Southwark Playhouse is deserving of acclaim also.
Luke and Charlie are a slightly odd couple but in spite of their differences they make their relationship work. Older out gay man, Adam is high on the scale of neurosis and is resolute in his atheist beliefs. Luke is an aspiring actor from Florida who is equally resolute in his beliefs. Luke’s beliefs involve a literal belief in the Bible and a need to pray for forgiveness after sex. In spite of his fundamental Christian beliefs, Luke is able to reconcile this with his homosexuality but unable to come out to his parents, always procrastinating till ‘next fall’.
The dramatic tension comes in when Luke is admitted to hospital following an accident and is lying in a coma. Luke’s bullish homophobic father and his erratic tranquiliser addicted mother arrive from Florida and are joined at his bedside by a closeted Christian friend of Luke’s and a female friend of the couple. The story is told in a series of flashbacks that intersect with the present day, told using a clever and versatile set that utilises Southwark Playhouse’s intimate space to maximum effect.
This is much more than a play about an issue but is also a play with incredibly tender and comic moments depicting the frailties of being human and the nature of diversity and how we overcome differences.
The cast are strong but none more so than Nancy Crane as Luke’s mother. Her comic timing is exceptional and her beautifully written lines are delivered with killer ease. The play is uproariously funny in places, unbearably poignant in others.