Exploring the extraordinary songbook of the 1920s, Peter Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett are fantastic in the hauntingly excellent Falling Stars
“There are people who hesitate, but corned-beef makes them cheer”
The creative team behind Falling Stars had only gotten one day into rehearsals before the second lockdown was announced in England so after rearranging their dates at the Union Theatre for early January, they also set about creating a filmed adaptation which will be available to stream for a week from Sunday 22nd November.
Falling Stars was conceived and written by Peter Polycarpou after the discovery of a 1920s songbook in an antiques shop. It takes the form of a revue, exploring the work of writers who created some of the most sublime music, songs which have endured for nearly a century now. Names like Carl Schraubstader and James V Monaco might not be as well known as those of Charlie Chaplin and Irving Berlin but they were all writing standards to be remembered.
Directed by Michael Strassen, Polycarpou and fellow performer Sally Ann Triplett guide us expertly on this musical odyssey with bits of biographical trivia and deeply empathetic vocal performances. One thing that seems immediately clear is that writers back then weren’t afraid of an improbably long song title. ‘There’s Yes! Yes! in Your Eyes’ or ‘When It’s Night-Time In Italy It’s Wednesday Over Here’ are both irrepressibly chirpy good fun.
Beating them both though is ‘You Know You Belong to Somebody Else (So Why Don’t You Leave Me Alone)’ which emerges as a gorgeously bittersweet duet sung in English and French, a similar sadness suffused in Chaplin’s ‘Now That It’s Ended’, hinting at some of the darkness of the previous decade that isn’t always immediately apparent in the mood synonymous with the 1920s. Jean Grey’s evocative set design is perfect for sliding between the ages and in the elongated shadows from Andrew Exeter’s lighting design, suggestions of the past are never far away.
And just when you think it can’t get any better, the show ends with a musical revelation of pure, devastating grace. I won’t give it away but between the particular nostalgia it elicits, Triplett’s peerless delivery and Polycarpou’s enormous generosity, it is as gorgeous a moment of theatre as I’ve experienced all year long.