REVIEW: ALL THAT (Lion and Unicorn Theatre) ★★★★

Taylor and Riley have been together nine years, have bought a house but have fallen upon harder times. When they decide to rent out their spare room to another gay couple, their simple, quiet, happy lives become a little more complicated.

All That is a play about sex, relationships and monogamy that makes you think. Personally, I believe any play that has the audience intensely debating it’s central issues in the interval can be very simply branded a success. The writing is clever and funny, it’s an intelligently laid out story that makes you think but keeps you thoroughly entertained.

Where Shaun Kitchener’s writing sets him apart from other shows of its kind are his characters. He has written five very specific, likeable and most importantly real characters. This means they have real chemistry, they clash and act differently towards each other and around each other. They are carefully thought out, intricate and very well executed by the actors and director, the very impressive Jamie-Rose Monk. My only criticism is that at times the piece isn’t snappy enough, lulling in indulgent pauses, but as it was only their second performance, a certain amount of that can be put down to not quite finding a consistent flow just yet.

Kitchener (Taylor) and James Robert-Moore (Riley) work really well together on stage. At first, I was a bit weary of them as a pairing, as there was something missing in their chemistry, but in actual fact that seemed to be an intentional choice, revealing itself later on in the first act, which was really satisfying. Robert-Moore is incredibly likeable as Riley, cleverly reeling the audience in and then breaking their heart. Like I said previously, the show is really well laid out, I particularly loved Tom Bovington’s (Jamie) journey throughout the piece and his final outburst at the end of the play really hit home. You watch as the character develops and changes and I think as an audience member that is one of the most satisfying things a writer and an actor can collectively give you.

However, without Christopher Cohen (Parker) and Roberta Morris (Kim) the play would have been intense and depressing. It would be unfair to say all they do is provide comic relief but they do it unbelievably well. Kitchener’s hilarious one liners and side comments come to life in both of their hands and they had the audience roaring with laughter. They perfectly balanced out the serious moments, which meant the play rarely lost momentum and I think I could have watched it for another half an hour at least.

Kitchener’s play is the sort of piece I am usually frustratedly craving from theatre. It’s funny, clever and well written but also encourages and urges you to think. There is a time and place for escapism but I think All That allows you to have an enjoyable evening while still providing substance. I hope that this isn’t the last step for it, and look forward to seeing what Kitchener writes next.

Reviewed by Kara Taylor Alberts (@karaalberts)
Photo: Mathew Foster