Writer: Katie Honan
Director: Luke Kernaghan
Perhaps this reviewer has been stung one too many times, but when a play is billed as “funny and dark”, a feeling of trepidation sets in. A predictable, if not jejune, evening is anticipated, and usually expectations are met. Cue a kooky, upbeat twenty-something recounting a tale of minor-to-major trauma, which causes their voice to drop, and lights dim. Then they pull it back with a quirky joke, and at the end, really, they’re better off than when they started.
The pleasure brought about by Katie Honan’s How To Fall Flat On Your Face, then, should not be overestimated. There is genuine depth and subtlety to this one-woman show, which teases its themes patiently through the 80-odd minutes runtime, never succumbing to the flaws that beset the worst of its genre. Honan plays Anna, a woman having a miserable evening in a London A&E, after, you guessed it, falling on her face, and she reveals how she ended up there, in and around her interactions with hospital staff and other patients. Eoin Byrne’s lighting work is particularly vital yet understated; we are transported from Anna’s Waterford home to the grim hospital with ease.
Anna discusses her boyfriend, Conor, who won’t pick up the phone, probably because he’s busy – we soon learn the real reason. She tells the story of their meeting, their courtship, and their moving in together, marred by a dent in the leg of her yellow (“somewhere between lemon and mustard”) corner sofa, and finally their breakup and Conor’s emigration. Anna’s obsessive, self-destructive traits soon appear, and while their source probably lies in her abandonment by her parents at a young age, it’s never overdone – even by the end, as she enjoys tea and a sandwich, there is no moment of revelation.
Honan is a skilled performer, honest writer, and someone who evidently enjoys the ambiguities in life, relationships, and decision-making. She provides moments of true emotional depth, and earns each laugh from the audience. Aware of the stock characterisation she employs, she uses their familiarity to expose, in the gentlest fashion, how all of us bear some culpability for our failings – especially if you’ve been eating rice crackers while trying to get off a Tube.
Runs Until 18th November 2023.