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Everything We Need (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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A lack of clarity and cohesion reduces the impact of Ben Mellor’s potentially powerful Everything We Need. The play comprises seven monologues set in the context of the recent floods in the UK. Mellor explores various responses to such extremes – such as opportunistic optimism or pessimism.

Extending the context to include the myths of Noah and Gilgamesh provides one of the best monologues with a young man gaining sufficient life experience to challenge his father’s narrow beliefs. The morality of undercover police officers forming relationships with subversives is investigated. Strangely, for such a perceptive writer, Mellor’s earth-mother character comes close to the cliché of a drippy-hippy.

It is hard to determine why Mellor only establishes links between some of the monologues. This partiality is distracting -you search for non-existent connections- and reduces the dramatic impact of the play. It becomes a loose connection of short stories rather than a satisfying cohesive whole. As such it is not possible to bring the play to a climax- it just ends.

Director and dramaturge Cheryl Martin provides a stylish framework for the stories. Musicians Dan Steele and Leonie Higgins emerge from behind an opaque screen playing gentle acoustic music. But whilst this technique adds texture it feels like papering over the cracks rather than pulling the stories together and certainly doesn’t bring a sense of climax.

Mellor rises to the challenge of creating all of the characters on stage with the minimum of props. In the most moving sequence he gives a splendid wordless reaction to a devastating telephone call. But again, there is a degree of confusion; Mellor offers few physical or vocal indications as to the gender of the characters so we sometimes have to wait for the script to make clear if a person is male or female.

Unfortunately a disjointed approach distracts the audience from giving the themes of Everything We Need the attention they deserve so that the play is not the success the strong script deserves.
- Dave Cunningham


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