Friday, 9 June 2017

All That @ Lion and Unicorn Theatre

All That @ Lion and Unicorn Theatre

It’s fitting that the first half of this kitchen sink drama revolves around…well…the kitchen sink. We all argue with our housemates about the washing up, that’s a universal truth. But what if those same dish-avoiding housemates are in an open relationship? And what if that makes you question your feelings for your own partner?

All That is a new play from writer Shaun Kitchener, whose work includes writing for British soap opera Hollyoaks. There’s a similar feel here, with serious themes bubbling away beneath a light-hearted yet thoroughly engaging production. Home-owners Taylor (Kitchener) and Riley (James Robert-Moore) are, financial worries aside, in a strong and stable relationship. Cracks emerge, though, when they rent their spare room to a couple in an open relationship – Jamie (Tom Bovington) and Parker (Christopher Cohen). Initially judgemental, Taylor and Riley are forced to face up to some (literal) home truths. It’s quite the clich├ęd set-up and the narrative is wholly predictable, but it’s an approachable and frank look at gay relationships, breaking down the taboo of open relationships (even though straight couples are never considered here).

What Kitchener does so well is paint the situation in shades of grey. Taylor and Riley are by no means the perfectly settled couple – perhaps they’re naively following heteronormative convention? Likewise Jamie and Parker aren’t necessarily home-wrecking villains, but are perhaps just living an honest life. And when *spoiler alert* Taylor succumbs to the advances of Jamie, it’s arguable whether he was manipulated or if this would’ve happened eventually.

As a result, these characters feel like real people with real problems that we can empathise and identify with, not just voyeuristically judge from a distance. Dialogue is natural and the on-stage chemistry is, for the most part, credible between the flustered Taylor, the suave and mysterious Jamie, and the calmly reliable Riley. There’s plenty of comedy too, predominantly from Cohen’s eccentric “colourful” Parker and Roberta Morris as Taylor’s gossipping best mate who gets all the best lines, delivered with exceptional comic timing. It’s through her inquisitive eye that we really see the others, something that begins with the crude but amusing opening scene. As with her, for many All That will be quite the eye-opener.

And yet Kitchener wisely refrains from lecturing and allows us to make up our own minds. The end may come suddenly, but it leaves no conclusion. For some, open relationships work; for others the very idea is abhorrent. All that matters is each to his own.

4/5

Watch: All That runs at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre London until 10th June.

All That @ Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Photos: Matthew Foster