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Light Falls (2023) Manchester School of Theatre review – the beauty of grief in all its forms

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Featured image: Ben Redshaw


Bryony Shanahan directs Light Falls, an interpretation of Simon Stephens’ 2019 ‘love letter to the North’. This inspiring BA (Hons) Acting production showcases the very best northern spirit, following five disparate relatives connected by grief. The story of romance, adultery, loss and resilience is performed seamlessly by Manchester School of Theatre students.

An air of intensity surrounds the room as you enter the Manchester Met’s theatre, with a hazy, dimly lit backdrop illuminating four benches. Production quality and care for ambience does not go amiss as rainfall is played pre-show. 

Julia Rogers enters the stage as Christine, beginning with a raw monologue. A recital of her isolation before her death in a Stockport supermarket is delivered with enough frenzy to give you goosebumps. Her performance darts between paranoia and distress, to fond familiar memories, drawing the audience into her final thoughts. The production team does not miss a beat as her tumultuous emotions are encapsulated in the lighting; flicking from warm orange to harsh blue spotlights.

Introduced into the parallel lives of the surviving family members, the cast deliver their journeys of personal highs and lows with incredible passion. Although the news of their mothers death has not yet been revealed, the motifs throughout the separate stories bring us back to the main plotline. Care for detail is clear as Christines’ iconic blue coat is echoed throughout the cast, with performers donning one or more blue items. 

Roxana Tablae’s performance as Ashe is intoxicating, conveying the spiral of her personal life with tear-jerking vigor. Each story tells a different side of grief, creating a captivating and widely relatable piece.

In a haunting scene between mother and daughter, Jarvis Cocker’s ‘Hymn for the North’ is played as  a lullaby. The brilliance of the performers is shown in the execution of the repeated lyrical piece, absorbing us into this powerful family connection. 

As the final act sees the parallel stories meet, we witness the collaboration and dedication of the whole cast in a touching finale. We are left in a profound silence to contemplate the beauty of grief in all its forms. 

Light Falls has finished its run, however Manchester School of Theatre will be showing Mr Burns: A Post Electric Play from November 30th – December 2nd. Judging by the sheer talent  and raw emotion conveyed by the performers and production team alike, this is not one to miss.

Visit theatre.mmu.ac.uk/productions to learn more and purchase tickets for future performances.

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Jess Berry

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