Never Not Once at Park Theatre
Theatre has a unique ability to be engaging – good theatre doubly so. Never Not Once at the Park Theatre is an incredible example of this ability.
Written by Carey Crim, the play was the winner of the Jane Chambers Award for Feminist Writing and a finalist for the Eugene O’Neil Award. After a widely praised run in the US, it has now come to the UK, as a new production directed by Katharine Farmer.
The story is about Eleanor, a college student with amazing mums and a bright future. All she wants to know is who her biological father is. With boyfriend Rob’s help she pursues the enquiry, which leads her down a path of explosive truths and forces their happy family to confront their past.
It’s incredibly powerful, totally absorbing and completely heart-wrenching, tackling incredibly complex themes with a soft, but often quite direct touch.
The play’s greatest strength is in flawlessly developed characters. Eleanor herself (played by Meaghan Martin) is headstrong but also sensitive, with a keen scientific eye. She is matched in sensitivity by Rob (Gilbert Kyem Jr) who, whilst initially presented as the fratty “naked man Rob”, turns out to be quite a forward-thinking individual. It’s Eleanor’s mothers, however, who really steal the show. Allison (Flora Montgomery) and Nadine (Amanda Bright) have been together for 15 somewhat rocky years and the audience can really tell. They have a rapport that only the most intimate of couples have, feeding off each other’s energy whilst also knowing when to push back. It’s perfectly pitched.
Through these characters, Never Not Once manages to present a story that captures the nuances of our current social landscape. Eleanor’s journey to discover her father is at points incredibly difficult to watch but never fails to seem relevant and necessary. It confronts themes such as consent, heritage and family with an unflinching gaze, leading to shocking consequences. At points, isn’t a comfortable experience, but then again it’s not meant to be: it’s meant to make one think.
It would be unfair to describe Never Not Once as “difficult theatre”: just because something isn’t necessarily fun to watch doesn’t mean that it’s difficult, it means that it wants to go beyond entertainment, to make the viewer consider their world. This is a play for our time, and the topics it discusses resonate in every corner of society.
Photos: Lidia Crisiafulli and Gemma Turnbull
Never Not Once is at Park Theatre from 9th February until 15th March 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.