All of It at the Royal Court Theatre
There’s a superb solo performance in London theatreland. And no, it’s not Rafe Spall.
While the Death of England star almost bursts a vein acting, Kate O’Flynn barely moves. Well, her legs, at least. All she needs is her endlessly expressive face and voice, contorting between curiosity, incredulity and banality. Giddy and childlike, sure and uncertain, haunted and getting by. She puts in 45 minutes, and around 80-odd years, of sheer being.
In essence, All of It is Shakespeare’s seven ages of man speech from As You Like It, if written by Caryl Churchill (with a touch of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). It may be unfair to constantly compare the current crop of writers from either side of the Atlantic to Churchill. But boy is her shadow long. And it’s not like she’s an unexpected influence – Alistair McDowall has mentioned the living legend in interviews, pointing to her as one of the few playwrights still producing short, full pieces for the stage.
It quickly becomes apparent what All of It is going to be. Once Flynn takes her seat, under a hazy spotlight with only a glass of water for company, the lights dim, rising again with the eyes-open babbling of a newborn. What follows is a stream-of-consciousness hurtle through one woman’s life, never slowing, only gathering pace the other side of childhood.
Everything you would expect to be there is there. Deaths, disappointments, bursts of joy, the itchy healing of wounds over years and decades, those hurts that never scab over, forever picked at. We loop and return to scenes and scenarios as daughter becomes mother becomes grandmother. Warnings and rebellions played out over and over.
It’s bulging with clichés. And yet the unspecial, familiar nature of this woman’s time on earth is precisely why it ends up working. Almost in spite of itself. It’s a blueprint – imbued with personality by the humour of McDowall’s writing and O’Flynn’s delightful crackle – that allows the audience to sketch in their own lives on top.
Honestly, content-wise, there’s nothing groundbreaking. But, as the end loops back to the beginning, it’s hard not to feel the weight of a life lived, let it settle like a stone in your chest.
Photo: Wasi Daniju
All of It is at the Royal Court Theatre from 7th February until 15th February 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.