‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ is a play of brutal realism; a kind of play that makes you laugh with its peppering of wit and comedy, whilst still making you shuffle in your seat in discomfort as you begin to see your own reflection cast in these ordinary, extraordinary lives. Luke Barnes toys with the concept of destiny, of inevitable outcomes, of circumstances written in the stars. The birth of the lead characters, Leah (Bryony Davies) and Chris (James Stanyer) – born equal, normal people, yet their paths forked by circumstance – has an almost cosmological importance. Time unravels like a spool of thread, with the charismatic narrator introducing the social and political climate of every decade as his costume changes from Freddie Mercury’s canary-yellow jacket, to Liam Gallagher’s parker, as they grow older. Played by Marc Graham, our raconteur darts around the stage, arresting in his charm and lyrical, impish speech. Graham’s performance is bold, seamless and exuding the kind of confidence that really earns an audience’s respect.
The narrator’s part comes as comic relief for the weight of the themes ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ deals with. Barnes uses Leah and Chris from birth to adulthood as vehicles for illustrating strained relationships, failed expectations and a feeling of ennui that we can all relate to. Both are staggeringly real; riddled with very human flaws. They are dissatisfied with the world because their parents wanted them to have everything, and when barriers arose – personal or circumstantial – that prevented them from having it, there is only a struggle. ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ is an excellent commentary on inter-generational relationships in the creative, always enthralling Middle Child house style.
One jarring element to the play is the comet. We know that it is hurtling towards the earth, destined to wipe us out. As every decade unfolds, time flying by, the comet flies every closer. It deviates from the play’s realism, yet serves a greater purpose of diminishing our trivial problems, and reminding us how finite, and therefore valuable, our time is. Throughout, you get the sense that Leah and Chris are frittering it away. Though at times a touch too sentimental, the purpose is endlessly relatable.
Middle Child’s plays really come into their own in an intimate venue. The less conventional it is, the more the play seems to thrive. Having seen this performed in a tent to less than a hundred people, ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ was just as much a gig as it was a theatre performance. Interspliced with original live music by James Frewer, it had masterful control of atmosphere and gave a real sense of the passing of time by capturing the zeitgeist. Funny, sensitive and something that resonates with us all, ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ is one of the leading plays in Hull’s theatre scene.