The Play

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

All That Fall, a radio play, opens with a chorus of farm animals heard against Franz Schubert’s String Quartet, “Death and the Maiden,” and the shuffle of trudging feet. It is a Saturday morning in June, in the village of Boghill, Ireland, sometime during the 1950’s. Mrs. Rooney (nee Dunne) is on her painful way—she is overweight and in her seventies—to meet her blind husband at the local railway station, on this, his birthday. Since it is also a day for the Leopardstown horse races, everyone hopes that the weather will hold.

As she makes her slow way, she is pursued by memories of her daughter Minnie, dead for some forty years, and by nostalgia for sexual attention. A succession of acquaintances interrupt these ruminations, and Mrs. Rooney exchanges small talk with each about the weather and the day’s races, with recurring references to language, sterility, and impending dissolution. First comes Christy, a carter, riding a hinny-drawn cart, who offers her manure for her garden. Next, she is overtaken by a retired bill broker, Mr. Tyler, riding a bicycle. As they converse, they are covered by the dust thrown up by a grocer’s delivery van, which almost runs them over. Mr. Tyler’s commiserations with Mrs. Rooney are cut short by his anxiety about possibly missing the train, so he pedals ahead. Meanwhile, Mrs. Rooney persists in a series of grim reflections on sexual longings, aging, and death. Then Mr. Slocum, the clerk of the racecourse, draws up in his motor car and, after much travail, succeeds in squeezing Mrs. Rooney inside and restarting his vehicle. They roar off, only to run over a...

(The entire section is 666 words.)