In some respects, All of Me is a new play that doesn’t tell us much that’s really new. The gambling addiction that Gareth (Jack Wilkinson) won’t admit to has been documented in the lives of various public figures over the years, including high profile Premier League footballers. Gareth’s income, having been previously employed at a travel agent, isn’t nearly as high as that, though one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise given the way he talks about making more money from winning bets online than all of his former colleagues at a firm called Prime Travels put together.
There seem to be a glut of plays coming through exploring mental health in men recently. I’m not entirely certain what has brought this on; I suspect the circumstances of the passing of the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams may have been the impetus for men who may have previously stayed quiet about the psychological toll critical incidents can have on their lives to speak out. But, on some reflection, we have indeed been here before. Gareth dresses for work, though no longer employed – his version of events is that he was forced out – and leaves the house at a time that would allow his mother to think he is on the morning commute as normal (he still lives at home). For my part, it only underlined the importance, and the joys, of having one’s own space. But, what’s the difference between Gareth in All of Me and Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s 1949 play Death of a Salesman, the latter being a man who goes ‘out to work’ each weekday leaving his wife Linda none the wiser?
There are 31 cardboard boxes dotted around the stage: despite the intense nature of this play, and its brevity, I still had time to count them, slowly and individually – make of that what you will. Most (possibly all) act as repositories for items relevant to the narrative. If you’ve seen The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the set-up is similar, as Gareth rapidly flits about from box to box, drawing on prop after prop.
Wilkinson’s Gareth establishes a good rapport with the audience, paradoxically partly despite and partly because of a slightly aggressive streak. The eye contact with the audience as he continues to tell his life story is simply excellent. As the anger is always directed at his former colleagues, and his former manager Derrick Wentworth in particular, the audience never feels threatened themselves, such that when a certain twist in the play’s plotline comes along, something that would ordinarily make the audience feel uneasy at best, I joined in with the majority of the audience in uncontrollable laughter. I had the giggles for some time afterwards, even after the show had well and truly finished and the house lights had come back up.
It ends rather abruptly, though, and I would have liked to have seen what happened to Gareth beyond the relatively brief timeframe the play covers. There’s a confidence and assertiveness about him that probably did make him a good agent, and it would be a pity if a longer version of the play ended in a similar way to Death of a Salesman (for those unfamiliar with that play, its title alone should be sufficient to give you an idea of what I am insinuating).
It’s a brilliant play as it stands, however. I was both touched and thrilled by this exciting and hard-hitting (in more ways than one) production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“When it’s working, you won’t even pay attention to the time; there is no time, there is just that win.” Gareth, not by his own admission, is a loner. Recently fired from his job as a travel agent, he recounts the story of his downfall; the death of his father, a spiraling gambling habit, and the man responsible for it all – his ex-boss, and once friend, Derrick Wentworth. All of Me is a dark comedy about loss, loneliness and coping.
All of Me explores male mental health and the modern crisis of gambling addiction, including online; whilst gambling receives increasing attention in the media, we think there’s a lot more to talk about. We’re particularly interested in addiction as a coping strategy for the underlying human struggle to manage loneliness and isolation. As a company, we delve into the uncertain, explore divisive subjects & put underrepresented voices at the centre of our work. We want to bring people together at different ends of society to create communities on, and beyond, the stage.
Written by Martin Brett
Directed by Liz Bacon
Performed by Jack Wilkinson
Set Design by Nicola Ralph
Casting by Meryl and Leslie Casting
Stage Management Chloe Forestier-Walker
All of Me
Wed 1 – Sun 5 March 2017