Five members of a normal family take to the mirrored stage of the Lyceum and face the audience, telling us their thoughts, memories and dreams.
As the house lights dim, you think this is perhaps a clever device to deliver a scene-setting character introduction. Over an hour later, as the lights fall on the interval, you realise it is not. And it is testament to the power of Jo Clifford’s writing, stunning performances from a convincing cast, and Mark Thomson’s original direction that you have barely noticed.
Every One is the world premiere of Clifford’s powerful and poignant study of death, loss and grief; and the impact they have on us all. With deft writing and realistic dialogue, it cleverly focuses on a family unit who are largely unremarkable. As mother and central figure Mary questions at the beginning: “we’re just normal people really, so I don’t see what all the fuss is about”.
However, this most certainly is a play worth fussing over. As we gain insight into the different family members’ perspectives and innermost thoughts, death itself is dissected: demystified, even. By choosing characters with whom we can all identify (the alienated son, the trend-obsessed daughter, the opinionated father), Every One becomes a personal, shared journey and examination of the play’s central themes.
The performances are excellent. Kathryn Howden as Mary is always convincing, her performance seamlessly travelling through denial, anger and acceptance as the play progresses. Jonathan Hackett as her husband Joe is also on fine form, and it is his helplessness and frustrations which provide most of the moments of spine-tingling emotion.
Thomson’s direction is highly effective, with some innovative fourth wall-smashing staging and set design which emphasise the universal relevance of the themes and highlight the fragile state between this life and the next.
After the interval, Every One shifts from fly-on-the-wall style docudrama into more metaphysical territory and here it is slightly less immediate and powerful – but only marginally. It is in this half that the piece’s inspiration – the medieval play Everyman – becomes most apparent, and the dreamlike direction allows for some moments of poignant beauty and tenderness.
The whole adds up to a deeply touching, personal and beautifully-acted piece that has a power rarely felt in theatre: to profoundly move every one in the audience in a production that – whilst it may cast death in a starring role – is ultimately about the precious, beautiful nature of life.
Every One runs until April 10th. Further details and tickets are available from the Lyceum website.