If ‘fear’ were to be categorised, could it be divided into just two groups – rational and irrational? Rational would be loss, illness, stepping into the unknown, whilst irrational must be the fear of things like harmless spiders, dogs or even of buttons. However, to those people who suffer from ‘irrational’ fears, they are no such thing – to the point when they can become everything.

A History of Falling Things, which opened in the Wildman Theatre at Ilkley Playhouse on Monday, explores, quite brilliantly, what it is like to suffer from one of these fears. Beautifully written by James Graham, the fear of things falling from the sky – space junk in particular – is seen through the eyes of Robin and Jacqui, both of whom suffer from this crippling anxiety. For Robin (Andy Price) it has been an almost life-long problem whereas for Jacqui (Frances Kaye), the phobia was triggered by a more recent and relatable event.

We meet both characters simultaneously as we are welcomed into their respective rooms – one strewn with books – the tools of Robin’s trade and Jacqui’s which is her childhood bedroom, still decorated as such. Through the convenience of an internet chatroom, the two find each other, communicate and eventually strike up a very loving relationship, one which is very much platonic. They can’t leave their houses to meet, even though they are just a couple of streets apart.

Andy Price and Frances Kaye are both wonderful in their roles. Their characters are real and entirely believable as we share both their torture and their dreams – they make their fears seem perfectly sensible. Which is perhaps the problem that we need to understand. Robin and Jacqui have met in a ‘chat room’ specifically created to share the fear of falling things and instead of it being a case of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, the two of them are at risk of compounding and justifying it.

Robin has suffered from this phobia for most of his life and he has developed an existence which accommodates it. Andy Price gives an incredibly compelling and visceral performance as we watch him literally double over with the agony of his distress. For Jacqui, the fear is less embedded and her determination to beat it is much greater and Frances Kaye’s frustration at herself and at her father who attempts to bring her out of it is totally convincing.

Both Robin and Jacqui are supported by a parent – single parents, both of whom have suffered a loss – providing another clue to their children’s earlier traumas. Mel Winstanley is the fussy, overbearing mother of Robin, whilst Chris Winstanley plays the father of Jacqui. Both parents long for their offspring to enjoy fuller lives, to have relationships (proper relationships – with sex – Robin’s mum insists to his excruciating embarrassment). Jacqui’s Dad, in a very familiar sentiment, just wants his daughter to fulfil her early promise. These roles too are beautifully played – the audience will be split as to the characters with whom they sympathise the most as all four of these are so clearly drawn and acted.

Sarah Potter plays a bike courier who goes between the two house holds delivering gifts and messages – her role become vital to the outcome and adds an additional note of humour.

This play, for all that it deals with a form of mental illness, is far from depressing or sombre. In fact it is a real joy to behold. Rachel Conyers has directed with great sympathy and sensitivity to really highlight the deeper issues this wonderful piece embodies. Bravo!

It runs until Saturday 13th May. Tickets can be booked by calling 01943 609539 or on line at www.ilkleyplayhouse.co.uk