Review: All My Best

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Photo: Mermaids
Photo: Mermaids
Photo: Mermaids

All My Best is an extremely intense and emotional play – a woman dealing with the death of her twin sister, a husband who skirts around the issue of children, a father who is frail and ill with dementia, and a partner of a dead woman whose presence cannot leave him alone; she is embodied in her living sister. This could have been the play that really set the precedent for the coming semester of theatre – instead, although it does hit some brilliant high notes, the play suffers from issues that could in fact be easily rectified with workshopping.

The script is quite naturalistic; the dialogue, although coming off slightly stilted at times, flows with an ease that other student-written scripts often shoot for and miss – the conversations are brimming with things unsaid and shot through with a humour that is effectively subtle, making it more like real life. However, there are often lines of dialogue that were unnecessary and should have been transferred to physicality and body language. Macy (Annabel Steele) often falls victim to this, in one instance unnecessarily expressing that she’s not angry when it’s obvious she is. King’s script also has the occasional cliché, but I can understand why; they are hard to avoid when writing about subjects that hit so close to home.

However, there are 2 scenes, 1 in each act, that take on a strange dance-like atmosphere as ambient sounds play in the background; in the first scene Macy and Kit (Daniel Jonusas) gravitate towards each other, Kit seeking his dead partner Allison in Macy’s painfully similar face. In the second it is radically different – Kit finally rejects the false Allison, and Glen Kennedy’s Adam realises he has lost his wife. These scenes, with a little more definitive direction, could have taken on a higher level of meaning, but the way they are makes the atmosphere at once tense and ethereal. In a play dealing with such human issues, these scenes break away from the naturalism and provide a different edge.

King’s blocking makes sure relationships between characters are expressed – in particular I enjoyed the scenes between Macy and Kit; the undeniable chemistry is tainted with the spectre of her dead sister. They keep the space between each other filled with unsaid words, and when they come together in a predictable kiss you can tell these characters have plenty of issues.

The acting itself suffered from frail direction, although there were certain points in which the actors shone. Kennedy was extremely quiet and rather lacklustre at times; his anger at Macy’s unfaithfulness was not nearly vehement enough to be believable. Where he triumphed was when he expressed his subsequent pain and turmoil, and his taunts of his previous dalliances with Allison verged on not only sadistic but also brilliantly masochistic.

all my best play
Photo: Mermaids

Jon White as the dementia-ridden father did not make me fully believe he was a frail old man, although his physicality was well done. What he did better was show the devastating effects of dementia; in one upsetting scene he went through photos of his daughters, forgetting which one is which. In another he took one look at Kit’s painting of Macy/Allison and broke down, his tears filled with guilt.

Steele did well as Macy. It was clear she understood this character was complex and flawed and wracked with emotion; Macy is King’s best character. Striking in the first act, she began to fully blossom towards the climax of the play, and the penultimate scene where she took on the persona of Allison, attempting to seduce her own husband, was a psychologically powerful scene. However, Steele leaves the character of Macy with many unanswered questions- although this could have been effective, due to the lacking script it was just irritating; another issue that can be fixed with work-shopping.

Jonusas’ Kit is frustratingly underdeveloped and it is irritating as he constantly displayed remarkable potential. He played the grief-stricken partner of Allison with touching vulnerability, and all his lines were delivered with a naturalism and humour the other actors sometimes failed to reach; wrought with not only sadness at the death of his partner, but also confusion at Macy’s constant presence in his life. Once again, the abundance of unanswered questions is what hinders Jonusas from truly exploring the full depth of Kit; he instead becomes a predictable if intriguing character, who kisses Macy and then leaves her.

All My Best is beautiful and upsetting and filled with real possibility, but it is hampered by an uncomfortably obvious plot, weak direction, and a lack of fully-formed answers. King writes with an emotion that indicates the story comes from her own experience, and I am impressed at what she achieved; with a little workshopping the script could really blossom and become something shattering. I look forward to seeing what she does next.

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