Rebecca Russell’s Falling Off a Log triumphs at Maltings, St Albans

I AM unashamedly a fan of Rebecca Russell’s writing – without exception I have enjoyed all her plays from the hilarious Regina Monologues to the bittersweet and thought-provoking The Colours of Kenny Roach.

Her latest offering, Falling off a Log, which was performed at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans last week is clearly from the same pen and with the same observational skills which make her plays so compelling.

It has already won awards at the Welwyn Drama Festival and was performed at the Maltings Arts Theatre to give St Albans audiences a chance to see it.

The basic premise is what happens to the psyche of a woman who is desperate to have a baby and is unable to carry one to full term.

Helen Miller takes the role of Ruth whose longing for a child takes her to unprecedented lengths. She plays her as alternately soft and loving and spiky – a lethal combination.

Her biggest problem is with her controlling mother-in-law Dulcie, played by Sue Dyson, who makes it clear to Ruth from the outset that her son Chris – but more truthfully herself – wants children to result from the union. As the over-fussy mother who puts her head above the parapet once too often with Ruth, Sue carries off the role with aplomb.

The ubiquitous Stephen Cunningham – how does he remember all his lines? – takes the role of Ruth’s husband Chris only a week after appearing in the extremely demanding Peppermint Muse production of Bash.

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He is as professional as ever, imbuing Chris with a deep devotion for his wife which transcends the need to have children.

He also directs Falling off a Log which was conceived and written as a radio play and required a lot of work to translate it effectively to the stage.

The voice of authority is taken by Leone Sampson as the senior police officer who is drawn into the turmoil in the family. Leone is another skilled actress who brings an additional dimension to the play.

If there was one cause for regret it is that Falling off a Log is not longer so that the audience can learn more about the characters and their motivation. Even the police officer Mayes has a story to tell as her comments about seeing her children hint at.

But I am sure that idea is already in Rebecca’s mind and I, for one, would welcome Falling off a Log as a full-length play.