The narrator (Joe Strickland) begins by setting the scene for All Falls Down: a group of friends have crash landed in a remote forest following a plane accident. The choices made by the audience will ultimately determine their fate, in an improvised, immersive storytelling.
We are guided through the adventure by Strickland in a shipping container, with a miniature representation of the environment the audience is in on a coffee table. The space is dark and is atmospherically lit only by hand torches and the light from mobile phones. Understandably, the set and lightings are kept minimal as it is difficult to anticipate how the story will progress. However, the addition of some background woodland sounds might help set the scene more fully.
While the audience is led to believe that the story may be somewhat horror themed, as they are asked whether there are particular fears that should be avoided, this may not end up being the case. Depending on the choices of the group, the narrator can be torn in somewhat polar directions. While some participants may intend to pursue the horror and thriller route, others can unravel such plans with comedic actions and the performance can quickly become a little messy, losing its focus.
In my scenario, a potential deadly creature, which started off as a beast with the ability to kill off every member of the group, was turned into a tamed and malnourished pet. In fact, I even named it ‘Kevin’ given the similarities to the bird from Up. Following this turn of events, there were no more dangers presented and the tense situation turned instead into a cosy stayover around a campfire. However, that is not to say the story was not enjoyable. On the contrary, it was a refreshing experience as it was not what I had anticipated. Too often, an audience might read the synopsis of a show and go in with a pre-formed perception of what they would like to see. Here, despite the fact that the direction of the narrative is determined by the audience’s actions, each individual has limited influence. To add to this, the success or failure of certain actions can depend on one’s ability in Jenga…
While the experience was positive overall, one can imagine that it is a tremendously difficult task to build up a specific theme or focus depending on the audience’s choices. If the desired outcomes among the participants are too different, there is a chance that it can lead to a clash of wildly diverse genres, without achieving anything substantial in any of the areas.
Given the improvised nature and the extremely high degree of freedom in terms of responses, each performance of All Falls Down is completely unique, but this comes at a risk. Perhaps the creatives could run ‘themed’ performances to attract groups of like-minded people in order to drive the story in a more focused direction, helping create a more in depth and immersive experience.
Devised by: Joe Strickland
Produced by: Chronic Insanity
All Falls Down plays as part of VAULT Festival 2023 until 28 January. Further information and bookings can be found here.
You can also hear more about this show and Chronic Insanity in our recent chat with Joe Strictland here.