Social media can form the ultimate barrier between parents and teenagers. With cyber bullies, FOMO and porn circling the internet, parents can feel an overwhelming need to control and to protect their children from the world around them. Sarah Rutherford’s new play, The Girl Who Fell explores the consequences of these influences on young minds.
…Or so it seems, anyway. Rutherford’s play initially follows the storyline of 15 year old Sam who commits suicide. She leaves behind her best friend, boyfriend and grieving mother who carry the leftover guilt and unanswered questions surrounding Sam’s death.
Sam’s mother, Thea is played with sensitivity by Claire Goose. She has become a shell of a person, and as a Prison Chaplain, is struggling with her faith as she questions where Sam has gone. Navin Chowdhry’s Gil charmingly strolls into her life, commenting on her elaborate ice cream order as she sits in her local cafe. Chowdhry is immediately likeable and lifts the heavy mood that seems to permeate throughout. 15 year old twins played by Rosie Day and Will Fletcher also add a playful element to the piece; constantly outmanoeuvring the other in their sibling squabbles.
Hannah Price’s direction does its best to navigate through the deeply sorrowful confessions to the witty banter that ebbs and flows throughout Rutherford’s play. However, it’s evident that this play is trying to cover too much ground. At first it seems like a play about teenage suicide and its link to social media use, but then it goes into “Me Too’” territory, then drug use, public shaming and abuse. The amount of reveals put in place to uncover all of these elements becomes almost farcical, when it should have been a stripped-back, simplistic play about the effects of social media and what it does to teenager’s mental health, and how parents handle it.
Rutherford’s play is well-intentioned, but desperately needs to make its message more concise.