I don’t watch a lot of television but even I have some familiarity with the Up documentary film series, following the lives of fourteen people (it’s less than that now, for various reasons) since the first film in the series, Seven Up! In 1964. This play, every seven years, doesn’t quite go as far as 63 Up – which would have been a bit much for a show without an interval – but nonetheless provides some interesting snapshots of the lives of Polly (Laura Hannawin) and Marcus (Jack Cameron). It is, admittedly, slightly contrived: what are the chances, in a world where so much is so transient, that a friendship between two people who met as school classmates would carry on for decades.
What starts off as teenage experimentation (ahem) goes back even further, although the first scene takes place when the duo are fourteen. He wants her to go away. She doesn’t, being rather gregarious, but it’s not long before she is unhappy and upset. Several minutes later, she invites him to, well, touch her (and I don’t mean a parting handshake). Nothing is ever done by halves by these friends, and Polly’s periodic ability to assume the worst contrasts almost too perfectly with Marcus’ calmer demeanour.
Calmer, of course, is not the same as calm, and it becomes evident that Marcus has his own demons to fight. In a scene I can’t help but call 28 Up he is still dealing with his personal problems without outside assistance, much to Polly’s exasperation. He has his phrases and mannerisms – the play provides some toilet humour of the highest order – but it becomes evident that Marcus’ feelings for Polly stretch beyond friendship. This isn’t the first play to come along to explore the idea of love as a force so powerful it becomes destructive: Chekhov’s The Seagull does it, as does Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
It isn’t always the easiest story to follow, but it is pretty credible: the pair communicate with one another in such a way that it isn’t always necessary to finish a sentence or state explicitly what it is they are talking about. Each of the scenes are set in different places but in all of them, there’s a sense that the audience is listening into a private conversation, even in a setting as public as an accident and emergency department. This seems to be the key strength of the production, drawing people into a private chat, and then another, and then another…
The language can be coarse when it wants to be (it’s two friends speaking frankly and openly to one another, not a Downing Street press conference), and while there are costume changes and a decent set, it’s the storyline combined with some nuanced performances, showing strength and vulnerability in equal measure, that makes for an absorbing and appealing experience.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Polly and Marcus have been best friends since they were fourteen. They might even be soulmates. But life continues to push and pull them together and apart.
They stumble through the social chaos of their teenage years, the freedom of their twenties, the responsibilities of their thirties, and the midlife crises of their forties, navigating their relationships with each other, the outside world, and their own changing bodies.
every seven years is a new play told in seven year intervals. It asks what makes us who we are: our choices, our companions, or the very bodies we inhabit?
Marcus Jack Cameron
Polly Laura Hannawin
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Writer/Director Jack Fairey
Associate Director/Lighting Design Joe Malyan
Stage Manager Zoë Rogers-Holman
Set Construction Tim Howe
Produced by Bedivere Arts Company
EVERY SEVEN YEARS
by Jack Fairey
produced by Bedivere Arts Company
Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 July 2021 at 7.30pm