Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down by Richard Cameron is, according to director Carla Kingham, “her baby.” Set to be staged in the Oxford Hub above the Turl St Kitchen, this production will be an intimate and understated affair, thanks to the small cast and closeness of the lamplit room. The issues the play treats, however, are far from low-key: Ruby (Phoebe Hames), Lynette (Claire Bowman) and Jodie (Zoe Bullock) are three women whose lives have been thrown off course by Royce, a man who never appears on stage but present in the characters’ monologues. Themes of domestic abuse are introduced through the voices of the three women, who have been subject to Royce’s rages for years.
The Bechdel test judges a film as feminist if it has scenes where women have conversations which are not about men: this script would probably fall short, and this is testament to the devastating effects of Royce’s abuse on each character’s life. The script is set in the late 80s or early 90s, but the cast are keen to make sure the action doesn’t seem too much like a period piece: the material is still raw and relevant.
What is important, however, is location: the play is set in Yorkshire’s Don Valley, in a small town where the three women are aware of each other without being friends. The script shows them at different stages of their relationship with Royce: Ruby is the eldest, and is able to look back on their marriage with some perspective. Hames, who plays Ruby, describes her as “scarred – but it’s definitely scar tissue, rather than an open wound.”
I saw Ruby’s monologue, given from a corner of the seating: she describes the beginnings of her relationship with Royce, the excitement of sex followed by the shock of pregnancy. Hames engages with the audience in a faultless Yorkshire brogue, drawing them into Ruby’s story and making them feel, in Kingham’s words, “uncomfortable for the right reasons.” Cameron delicately interweaves the three women’s lives until the very end, when the final moments bring them together.
All proceeds of the production will go to charities supported by the Hub, and can be bought with a coffee in TSK. It’s a hardhitting and well-crafted portrayal of domestic violence, and all for a good cause.
Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down is showing at the Oxford Hub above the TSK. Tickets £8/5, in aid of the Oxford Hub – available on the door or in advance from the TSK.