Back in at the lovely Royal Theatre in Northampton for the second time in as many months to catch the Paines Plough tour of this Mike Bartlett three-act play.
We start in 1967 on the night the world first watched TV together and The Beatles premiered All You Need is Love (from which the play takes its title). Oxford student Kenneth is staying with his older brother and proceeds to steal his girlfriend Sandra. Jump forward 23 years and Kenneth & Sandra are now married with careers, two teenagers and a house in Reading, but they’re about to split up. Jump forward another 21 years and we’re in retired Kenneth’s home with his son as the ex-wife and daughter / sister are about to visit.
This is a slow burn because it’s not until the third act we understand what Bartlett is getting at – it’s all the baby boomers fault! Though I think this is a valid and much ignored premise, I don’t agree that the response of the baby boomers is to focus on spending their ‘wealth’ and ignoring the woes of their children in our new inaccessible property / low pay society. Though I don’t have children, most of my friends who do are making significant sacrifices (including re-mortgaging their homes) to help their children. However, it is right to hold them (US!) to account.
It’s an original, captivating and well structured piece. The jumps forward between acts do mean long intervals (with, in our case, an over-run of 20 minutes) that slow down the dramatic flow. It also means actors have to age between 21 and 44 years – a bit of a tall order – and it’s to their credit that they just about pull it off. Ben Addis does particularly well moving from irresponsible student to responsible husband & father and on to irresponsible oldie. James Barrett (so good in the Bush’s 2nd May 1997) is outstanding as both a carefree 14-year old and a troubled 35-year old. Rosie Wyatt’s performed with great passion as an angry 16-year old and an even angrier 37 year-old.
A fascinating and deeply satisfying play from a playwright who is leading the way in modern state-of-the-nation drama that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Well worth the trip to Northampton. Only one more stop on the tour in Oxford – be there! - Gareth James
27 May 11
We were given tickets to see the show as a treat, and I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it! We were the youngest in the audience by far and I was a 60's baby.. just. Assuming it might be full of 60's music with a story line, all we got was lots of shouting, constant swearing, smoke and a woman staggering around the stage with a horrendous 'posh' accent with a bottle of wine for her best friend. I struggled to understand the story like and found the whole show painful! yes we could have left before the end but felt compelled to stay to see how it ended and to see the "peppered funny parts"... wrong decision! I seriously think there should have been a warning about the language printed on the programme. - Wendy
27 May 11
What a disappointment! This was so horrendous I had to walk out after the second act. So many missed opportunities to subtlely interpret a reasonable script and an interesting idea. Screaming actors trying to out-do one another, manic, depressing. - linda hallam
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