EXCRUCIATING, TORTUOUS, COMPELLING ….
EVERYTHING SHE EVER SAID TO ME
Written by Keziah Warner
Directed by Benjamin Henson
presented by SCRATCH New Writing
at The Basement Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
From 17 Apr 2012 to 21 Apr 2012
Reviewed by Nik Smythe, 18 Apr 2012
A simple, pragmatic set adorns the rustic Basement Studio stage – some wooden chairs, a table, a few wall shelves beset with bottles, books, pictures and other trinkets. Water is welcomingly provided at the door; though it's a cold night out the venue tends to get excessively warm.
Everything She Ever Said to Me is the premier production of a lengthy new work from playwright Keziah Warner, directed by Benjamin Henson, which explores that excruciating human foible of suppressing one's honest thoughts and feelings in an effort to not rock the boat or overcomplicate matters, inevitably with the opposite result.
Kayleigh Haworth is 24 year old Jo, a skittish, painfully nervous young woman with a dead-end telemarketing job selling mobility hardware to old people, and an oppressively doting mother (Jen Wolfe) calling her mobile incessantly to check she's okay. From the first scene it's made abundantly clear that Jo is not okay at all, spending much of the two acts on the brink of tears, alternately faking enthusiasm, barely containing excitement and frequently wincing at her own choice of words.
One apparent glimmer of light at the end of her tunnel-like existence is her work colleague Adam (Jordan Blaikie), a nice enough seeming lad who seems interested in her life and general wellbeing, but may be concealing a secret or two of his own...
Jo first encounters her neighbour, the lovable elderly widower Mr. Andrews (Kerr Inkson), through a random call through her work. Inspired by his frank simplicity, she makes an effort to strike up a friendship with him although, as with all her relationships, there's much more going on in her mind and soul than she is willing to share.
All the first act's frustration, anguish and twisted agendas culminate in the second act at Sarah's allegedly 'legendary' Sunday roast, attended by all the above along with Nicole (Lisa Sorensen), an upwardly mobile legal assistant whom Adam and Jo invite at the last minute in a panicking, misguided attempt to cover their indiscretion.
Jessika Verryt's straightforward set design is clearly dictated to some degree by budget; some suspension of disbelief is needed, but overall she succeeds in evoking a sense of familiar domesticity for a handful of different settings. Interestingly, while most props are merely representational – dinner sets, furniture etc – the climactic, delicious looking meal comes complete with gravy.
The capable cast work hard under Benjamin Henson's direction to maintain the predominately high-strung energy throughout the two-plus hour ordeal, especially Haworth whose central performance is as compelling as it is tortuous. However, the show stealer is Inkson's lonely old Mr. Andrews, a natural, sagacious voice of calm and reason amidst a chaotic cacophony of neurosis.
Warner's script cuts no corners in getting to the point. It often feels unnecessarily drawn out, albeit in a realistic, awkward fashion that evokes many a conversation that we yearn to have yet pathologically avoid. There are a few scenes that don't advance a great deal, but simply emphasise the invariably circular nature of unspoken angst – an experiential illustration of how much time, and life, we can waste through reticence and evasion of our underlying truths.
My associate suggested the whole story could feasibly be reconstructed in a single setting, the prior establishing plot points being revealed during the Sunday roast scene. In any case, depending on the company's objective in terms of what they want their audience to endure, I feel the play could easily be shaved down to under two hours without compromising too much of the aforementioned drawn-out anxiety.
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James Wenley (Theatre Scenes - Auckland Theatre Blog);