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Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts - Review

Home > Adelaide > Theatre Reviews | Theatre | Performing Arts | Gay & Lesbian
by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Event: -
A theatre experience worth checking out
I went to the opening night of a play recently. It was the first play I have been to in quite a few years, so I was looking forward to it, but maybe a little apprehensive because of the whole winding down from COVID thing.

However, I needn't have worried. The play was amazing.

Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts
Produced & Directed by Darrin Redgate
Starring: Claire Sara, Jason Jeffries, Lisa Lanzi, Brendan Cooney, Matt Hyde, & Tom Murdock
at Holden Street Theatres until May 8

next fall, play, poster
(poster thanks to Darrin Redgate)

First, the theatre. The Holden Street Theatre, where it is being held, is small and intimate, with a nice foyer area, a bar that does not charge the earth for drinks and a capacity for this production of 90 people. Very pleasant, I must say.

holden street theatre

Now, the play itself. It's hard to give a synopsis of a work like this without giving away critical plot points and spoilers, etc. But, essentially, it is a collision between the beliefs of a person and who that person is, plus how two people with different beliefs try to make things work. It is told from the point of view of a group of people in a hospital after Luke, a friend/relative, has been in a very serious car accident, waiting to hear how he is.

Luke is gay, but has not come out to his hyper-religious family, and is himself religious, which his current partner is not. Their discussions on reconciling the sinfulness of their lifestyle with his belief system is one of the central conflicts of the piece. How do we know this? Because the relationships between this injured man and those around him is shown through a series of flashbacks, stretching back five years. It does create a non-linear narrative, but we, the audience, learn certain things as time goes on, making everything clearer and more heart-rending. And don't expect a really overtly happy ending...

And I do need to point out that when you enter the theatre, the play has already started. Two people are already waiting in the waiting room and we have the noises of a busy hospital greeting us. Throwing us straight into the world of the play was a nice touch.

It is incredibly well-written. As regular readers will know, I am a writer and good writing draws me in every time. This was written so stunningly. The use of flashbacks to tell the tales of those involved with Luke's life are done really well. Yes, there were one or two nit-picks – the anti-gay bigot is the most religious person, and that's Luke's father. That is an unfortunate stereotype there. The relationship between Luke's divorced parents did not feel as acrimonious as it was claimed to be. The whole OA thing led nowhere and was never mentioned outside of one scene. But, as I said, these are nit-picks. The characterisation, the raw emotion in the piece, is really well done and drives the work along. Also, there was a liberal dose of humour mixed in with it all, which was a nice juxtaposition against the heavy themes.

Next, the acting. Apart from accent slippage (both up and down – sometimes hyper-USA accents, sometimes partial accents), the acting of the six members of the ensemble was top-notch. When it came to the emotional scenes, none tipped over into messy over-acting. The arguments were built up well, not just explosions of intensity. There were many times when the audience became lost in their performances. Without giving too much away, I have rarely been to a theatre production where so many people actually cried.

Claire Sara plays Holly, a friend of Luke and Adam, and owner of the shop where Luke works. Jason Jeffries plays Brandon, a former (?) friend of Luke, but still looked upon fondly by him. Lisa Lanzi plays Arlene, Luke's mother. Brendan Cooney plays Butch, Luke's father. Matt Hyde plays Adam, Luke's partner and the emotional core of the play. And, finally, Tom Murdock plays Luke, the pivotal character, who we see only in flashback apart from one brief hospital scene. Not one weak link amongst this sextet.

next fall, play, review
Luke and Adam (photo thanks to Darrin Redgate)

This transitions to the directing. Everything was on point. The set was minimalist (though I was later told not cheap!) and the actors and one stage-hand moved bits of the set around to show first a hospital waiting room, then a living room, then the roof of the hospital, a hospital room, and a park. The coordination was well done and the transitions were smooth. Lighting was nice, sounds were great, the use of music was not over-done – technically, apart from one bit of scenery not staying where it should, the play was as close to perfect as you could want for an opening night.

next fall, play, review
Showing the set (photo thanks to Darrin Redgate)

Now, this play was written in 2008. It shows the dichotomy of being a gay Christian in the USA, and this is not only a basis for conflict but also for love. At its heart, it is a drama where the characters are the story, which is what you want from a stage production. The reason I point out when it was written is that it is still poignant today.

Afterwards, I had a chance to speak with Darrin Redgate about the play, and he was very friendly, approachable and amiable. But the main question I wanted to ask him was: What was the inspiration to do this particular play?

"I saw it on Broadway in 2010, and it took me years to negotiate the rights. I performed as Adam in a production in Sydney in 2016 and Melbourne in 2017, but now that I've moved to Adelaide, I think I'm a bit old to be playing that role, so I decided to make it my first directing piece in Adelaide. Unfortunately, it is still relevant today, even if it was written in 2008."

So, that is Next Fall. It is an amazing play and I really do recommend it. There are some triggers in the language and scenarios, but it is recommended for those aged 15 years and older, and I think for older teenagers, it would be something well worth seeing. As well as adults of all ages.

Thoroughly recommended.

next fall, play, review
The Cast (photo thanks to Darrin Redgate)
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Why? Theatre can be wonderful
When: 222nd April to 8th May
Where: 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh
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