An existentialist and bored Death, interesting characters, and quirky humour. While it sounds like the elements that make up a Neil Gaiman short story (and perhaps that was what the writers were channelling), it is in fact the short play Fall on Death Ears, a cool and fun play performed in the Butterfly Club. Written by Kieran Gould-Dowen, directed by Cal Robinson-Taylor and performed by Willow Sizer, Mauricio Merino Jr, Sunny S Walia, Nicolette Nespeca, and Kim Givens, Fall on Death Ears is surprisingly fun and uplifting for a show about death and wasted life.
The plot of the show was fairly simplistic – in fact, for a large percentage of the show it nearly fell into the trap of “aimless”. Although more could have been explored plotwise, it was the characters that really drove the play forward. They were all interesting and relatable – one of them reminded me uncannily of my sister – and certainly made for an interesting exploration of humanity’s faults (which there are many). Although each character could have had more time, the pace of the show didn’t allow for it, but what we got from each one was very strong, lifted by both Kieran Gould-Dowen’s writing and the actor’s excellent performances. Plus there were plenty of cynical and dark jokes to keep the audience happy.
Stagewise, the show was an example of minimalism done well. The lighting at the start seemed a bit off, but everything improved once they got into the groove. The costumes were well chosen to suit the characters, although they did seem pretty interesting choices. Finally, the sound effects were well employed, although patronising pre-recorded voices are always going to run into trouble. That being said, it was a well thought out play in regards to stage and effects.
Really, one criticism of the play is that it didn’t go long enough – thus denying it a chance to explore these philosophical issues further. As a result, the existentialist themes and emotional stories are only explored superficially – that is, they were enough to start thinking about, but none of them were really explored in huge detail. This is the sort of show you could really turn into a mini-series – one where there are a few repeat characters, but the things get interesting as the new cases come along each story.
Regardless of the shortcomings, it was a strong play. Every cynic will empathise with Death, but the audience will ultimately be taken with the human characters. Perhaps Gould-Dowen should pitch the idea to the ABC.
Fall on Death Ears is on from 23 – 28 April at the Butterfly Club. Tickets are available at the box office or via the Butterfly Club website.