Every One ***

I’m about to write something I never thought I would mean as a compliment: the play greatly improved after the lead character died.

Jo Clifford’s Every One starts off on a very tough note.  For forty-five minutes, we watch five characters stand onstage and tell us how mundane their lives are.  There are some nice observations on daily life and the futility of some routines, but for the most part it is hard going.  Did director Mark Thomson keep the house lights up at half just to prevent people from falling asleep?

But then in one theatrical swoop the play goes from first to fourth gear, and all of a sudden those comments made in the beginning take a new life.  Clifford’s play then goes from a take on the banality of life to a diatribe about wanting to live.  The first act ends on a point of interest, leading to a second act that proves to be mostly moving.

The production of Every One is quite solid.  Thomson’s direction treats the piece and the characters with respect, and he creates some genuine moments of poignancy, particularly in the second act.  The design is actually much more interesting than it first appears, especially when the walls begin to open, close and move.

There is also a very good ensemble at work.  Jonathan Hackett is quite moving as Joe, Tina Gray has some great moments as Mother and Jenny Hulse and Kyle McPhail do well with the under-written roles of children Mazz and Kev.  Kathryn Howden’s performance as Mary is outstanding, constantly moving with a lovely touch of humour, and Liam Brennan has some of the best moment’s I’ve recently seen on the Lyceum stage in the pivotal role of The Man.

But I have to come back to Jo Clifford’s script.  Every One is a play that I appreciate, even at times admire, but it has many moments that prove to be a bit trying, even underdeveloped, resulting in a production that is sincere but unfortunately not as successful as it wishes.

Playing at the Lyceum until April 10.

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