BWW Review: ALL OF IT, Royal Court Theatre
A cone of light illuminates a stool next to which stands a table on which stands a glass of water. I'm thinking - Dave Allen At Large. A woman walks on to the stage, sits down, takes a sip and... whoosh!
Born / School / Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll / Daughter / Death / Work / Divorce / Death. Yes, all of it indeed, in 45 torrential minutes.
In Alistair McDowall's monologue, Kate O'Flynn gives a tour de force performance as a kind of oral time lapse photograph, breathlessly rattling through a life from the rush of birth to the rush of death. Occasionally a family member's or friend's voice may interrupt the flow, but mostly it's just our heroine, her ordinary (but somehow also extraordinary) minutes, days, weeks and years hurtling by.
It's the kind of conceit that could easily overstay its welcome, but McDowall is so astute in his observations of childhood delights, teenage angst, middle aged compensations and old age reconciliation that even well-worn tropes (teenage parties and bedroom fumblings etc) feel fresh.
Much of the credit goes to O'Flynn of course, our confidante and teacher, our guide through all of it. It's an extraordinary performance, static but so alive, with director Vicky Featherstone gambling that the momentum any play needs is all embedded there in the words - and it is. That O'Flynn can go to 11 and stay there, is an extraordinary achievement.
It's the kind of show that has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but most of the pleasure comes from that wry smile that signifies that a little slice of life has hit the hotspot of a personal truth. Perhaps the only disappointment is that this everywoman's life is so Middle England (well, Northern Middle England) that one almost feels like there's a companion piece in the wings about a woman not quite so planted in the demographic centre of this fracturing nation.
A Talking Heads show for the 21st century - let's hope McDowall finds as many as Alan Bennett did in the 20th.
Photo Wasi Daniju