Fall Away Home's fantasy falls flat
Devised and directed by Sherry J Yoon and Jay Dodge. Presented by Boca del Lupo and the Shadbolt Center for the Arts. In the Service Yard in Stanley Park on Saturday, August 24. Intermittent performances until September 1
Calling your story a fairy tale is no excuse for being incoherent.
In Boca del Lupo’s Fall Away Home, a girl named Amaryllis responds to knocking from inside a shipping container. When the container opens, Amaryllis falls into a fantasy world and spends the rest of the show trying to get home. The problem is that absolutely nothing holds her supposed adventure together.
Stylistically, Fall Away Home tries to mix the literal with the phantasmagorical and ends up in a lifeless middle ground. Issues of slavery and human trafficking are explicitly—and clumsily—addressed. In the netherworld, Amaryllis is put up for auction to the highest bidder. The auction makes an obvious point and goes on forever. The knocking from inside the shipping container is a clear reference to human smuggling, and in trying to get home, Amaryllis finds that she herself must hide in a container on a cargo ship. When she does, audience members are invited to close their eyes and imagine her experience. But this theatricalization is ridiculously inadequate: there is no claustrophobia, no suffocation, and no panic involved in standing outside in Stanley Park on a warm summer night.
Moving from the literal to the metaphorical, Fall Away Home borrows from classic fantasy fiction. Having fallen down the hole, Amaryllis, like Alice, meets a freaky character wearing a hat (the auctioneer). Later, a mysterious figure encourages her to escape by getting smaller. At another point, she turns into a fish, then back into a girl. But in Fall Away Home, these tropes never feel like more than clichés.
That’s because no meaningful story arc enlivens them. In most successful stories, active protagonists gain insight through their efforts. But Amaryllis wanders passively through her ill-defined world and arrives at a happy ending for no apparent reason.
Fall Away Home is also extremely disappointing visually. Boca del Lupo’s previous shows in Stanley Park—including Vasily the Luckless and The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces—have been site-specific and often wildly successful. The treetop antics in Vasily the Luckless are highlights in Vancouver’s theatre history.
Fall Away Home is not site-specific: this production takes place in Stanley Park, but the audience stands in a parking lot surrounded by stacked shipping containers. We could be anywhere. Fair enough: the company wants to tour this show. The rub is that Boca del Lupo fails to artistically exploit the environment that it has created: for too long, the surfaces of the shipping containers remain dully blank. Near the end, animator Kunal Sen gets some action going, but it’s too little too late.
Directed by Sherry J Yoon and Jay Dodge, who also devised the piece, Fall Away Home moves at a glacial pace.
There are moments when you get flashes of what might have been. Before the child auction, black-clad child stealers emerge, spinning on the ends of giant, wheeled teeter-totters. Later, a figure enters in a small boat, apparently rowing her way through the audience.
Overall, however, theatrical poetry is in short supply.