EDINBURGH 2017 - Review: ALL WE EVER WANTED WAS EVERYTHING, Roundabout @ Summerhall

By: Aug. 18, 2017
Edinburgh Festival

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is a rocking rollercoaster ride through the last 30 years in Britain, from the Thatcherite late 80s, through Cool Britannia, to Brexit Britain.

Focusing on two working-class kids from Hull, Leah and Chris, it portrays their unfulfilled dreams and increasing neuroses, even as an asteroid screams towards the planet. It's not quite a play, not quite a musical and not quite a rock concert, taking elements from each to create what Production Company Middle Child describe as "gig theatre".

As the central characters are born into Thatcherism and the last days of the Berlin Wall, we see them grow as the hopes and dreams of the 90s give way to the guilt of Noughties mediocrity, followed by the unhappiness of our modern divided world. The cast of six provide the music as well as all of the characters in the drama.

Bryony Davies offers irresistible comedy as the fabulously blunt and practically-minded Leah, while James Stanyer as Chris beautifully captures the wide-eyed innocence and hope of a 90s child, which is then shattered by his inability to live up to both his own dreams and the pressures of his mother. The whole show is brought together by Marc Graham as the rock god MC of the evening, all guy liner and sass, taking selfies with awestruck audience members and offering up acid commentary throughout.

The writing by Luke Barnes and music from James Frewer is entrancing, with lyrical inspiration ranging from Dumbledore quotes to the speeches of Tony Blair. This is musical theatre for the BuzzFeed generation, with plenty of nostalgia to be found and audible appreciation for references to mobile phone models. Fully utilising the excellent lighting of the Roundabout venue, it creates a raucous celebratory atmosphere as it takes us through the decades.

As the show builds to a frantic climax, it expresses the frustrations of a disillusioned generation defined by unrealised potential and unfulfilled dreams. Indeed, as someone the exact same age as the central characters, I found it not only nostalgic but quite moving. It gives voice to the resentment that the promises of our youth - that if you worked hard you could achieve anything, whether it was riches or success; that getting a degree was a passport to a guaranteed good life - have been broken over and over again.

Some less charitable folks may write off this viewpoint as "first-world problems" or "millennial angst", but in truth, the protagonists here are part of the first generation to be poorer off than their parents. Deserved resentment or not, it certainly captured the mood of the glowstick-waving crowd who rose to their feet in appreciation at the end.

An anthemic show for a generation, any 30-year-old theatregoer needs to see this, and many more besides will love the nostalgia, the music, the atmosphere and the message to focus on what makes you truly happy.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything runs until August 27 (not 22) at 8.45pm.

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