This review was written for Concrete Playground.
The Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s Eternity Playhouse, formerly the Burton Street Tabernacle, is the home to Vanessa Bates’ Every Second, a new play about infertility, IVF, families and wanting children.
Set on a raised spiralling platform designed by Andy McDonell, the staging circles around the various topics, elliptically and directly, confronting them from various angles and various positions, with tensions rising and falling, ultimately rising to a crescendo-like tipping point between partners and Bates’ two couples.
Based on Bates’ own experiences, Every Second is characterised by Bates’ trademark warmth and good humour, her direct dialogue which scintillates as it hits us with its emotional punch, and a healthy dose of grace and heart. A kind of ballet for two couples, the play follows Meg and Tim as they try to conceive a child naturally (with the help of various herbal concoctions and a strict diet). Set against their story, is that of Bill and Jen, a somewhat older couple who take the IVF option, in all its humiliating and invasive procedures. As each woman’s fertility cycle rolls around, so too do the tensions between the couples, until a series of undignified experiences make them reconsider.
Directed by Shannon Murphy, there is a bold directness and a mischievousness that dances through the play’s ninety-minute duration. To Murphy and Bates’ credit, they are not afraid of going to the potentially confronting corners of the topic, and although they are largely played for the humour inherent in the physical on-stage ‘reality’ or for their pathos, we sometimes get more than we bargained for. A particular highlight is the ballet which forms the play’s centre-point, and features the cast in variations of body-hugging clothing, protective headgear and outrageous antics.
Murphy’s cast are all strong, from Glenn Hazeldine’s loving and eager-to-please Bill and Georgina Symes’ stoic and long-suffering Jen, to Julia Ohannessian’s headstrong and endlessly optimistic Meg and Simon Corfield’s reluctant and hesitantly obliging Tim, whose plight we discover late on in the piece. Dressed in Rita Carmody’s functional and simple costumes, lit with warmth and mood by Verity Hampson, and featuring Tiernan Cross’ simple and melodic music, Murphy’s production is assured, considered and allows this new play to shine and breathe.
Some scenes seem slightly overwritten, a case of saying too much when we don’t know what to say, but if anything it highlights the truth that lies at the heart of Bates’ play – how do you keep it all together emotionally when you can’t have what you’ve always thought you’d have? Ultimately, Every Second is a wry and witty comedy about relationships, looking out for each other, and swimming upstream in the face of all the odds.
Theatre playlist: 33. Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks, Modest Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel)
*Not suitable for children