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NEVER NOT ONCE by Carey Crim at Park Theatre | Review

This gripping 90-minute play, by the American playwright Carey Crim, is receiving its UK premiere at Park Theatre in a superbly acted, fast-paced production by Katharine Farmer.

College student Eleanor, daughter of a single mother, decides to discover who her natural father is, thereby unearthing a can of worms that threatens to disrupt the lives of everyone involved. The plotting is slightly obvious, perhaps on purpose, but the best of the often confrontational scenes can be extremely powerful, especially in such a small space as Park 90.

Flora Montgomery, Meaghan Martin and Amanda Bright. Photographer Gemma Turnbull.
Flora Montgomery, Meaghan Martin and Amanda Bright. Photographer Gemma Turnbull.

Eleanor herself is very believably acted by Meaghan Martin with a terrific sense of energy and often disbelief at the havoc she has unleashed by her quest for the “truth”. Boyfriend Rob is subtly portrayed by Gilbert Kyem Jnr. His role is often just a supportive one but this performance is a fully rounded one and is totally real. In fact, this is not acting, this is being. Kyem was a finalist in The Stage’s 2019 Alan Bates Award, and you can see why.

Flora Montgomery, as Eleanor’s mother, Allison, is suitably neurotic, well suited to the dialogue and situations she is given. Here, we feel, is a woman to whom things have happened, and she is totally unable to control what is happening in her life as it spins ever faster. Her partner, Nadine is supposed to be a “rocket scientist” working for NASA, but the reasoning for this is not made clear by the playwright and it jars every time it is mentioned. Full credit, then, to Amanda Bright for making this role as believable as it is, especially in her scenes with Eleanor, in which she is portrayed as having much more empathy than Allison.

The role of Doug seems to have been difficult to write as the audience immediately knows who he must be, even though he spends a lot of time denying it, but this certainly builds the tension until the truth is eventually revealed. Adrian Grove gets much of the light and shade into his portrayal, trying to make Doug as sympathetic a role as Crim will allow, but in the final scene has been encouraged by the director to make the character larger than life, which brings a touch of unwanted melodrama.

The composite set is by Roisin Martindale, imaginative and easy to use, with the audience arranged on three sides of the acting area to make the atmosphere as claustrophobic as possible. Lighting design by Jamie Platt succeeds in helping create mood as well as ensuring that we can always see the actors’ faces.

Perhaps the storyline is obvious, and perhaps we know the denouement is flagged up long before it occurs, but there is no denying that this is a play that works and its 90 minutes fly by! Highly recommended!!!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

All-American student Eleanor has the best moms in the world. She’s bright, funny and completely happy apart from one small thing: she wants to know who her father is. When her boyfriend Rob hires a private investigator to help find him, the family are forced to confront an unexpected and explosive answer to the question “Where do I come from?”

Winner of the Jane Chambers Award for Feminist Writing and finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Award in America, this poignant and important story is all about facing the traumas of the past and finding unexpected grace.

CAST
MEAGHAN MARTIN | ELEANOR
AMANDA BRIGHT | NADINE
FLORA MONTGOMERY | ALLISON
GILBERT KYEM JNR | ROB
ADRIAN GROVE | DOUG

WRITER | CAREY CRIM
DIRECTOR | KATHARINE FARMER
PRODUCER | PAUL O’LEARY
SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER | ROISIN MARTINDALE
LIGHTING DESIGNER | JAMIE PLATT
SOUND DESIGNER AND COMPOSER | JULIAN STARR
FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHER | ALISON DE BURGH
CASTING DIRECTOR | EMILY JONES

PRESS | ANNA ARTHUR PR
MARKETING | MOBIUS

PRODUCTION ACCOUNTANTS | NYMAN LIBSON PAUL LTD
PRODUCTION INSURANCE | TYSERS INSURANCE BROKERS LTD
PRODUCTION SAFETY LTD | CHRIS LUSCOMBE

PRODUCTION MANAGERS | IAN TAYLOR & RUTH BURGON for eSTAGE
STAGE MANAGER | NELL THOMAS
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER | GRACE TIMS
COSTUME SUPERVISOR AND ASSISTANT SET DESIGNER | ABIGAIL CAYWOOD
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR | HOPE WORLEY
PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS | RYAN WILSON, TRICIA WEY and STEPHANIE BOOTH
PUBLICITY PHOTOGRAPHER | GEMMA TURNBULL
REHEARSAL PHOTOGRAPHER | LIDIA CRISAFULLI

Special thanks to STEVE WARD, IZZY & MIKHAIL @ BW STUDIOS and EMILY LEONARD for the initial set design concept.

Blue Touch Paper Productions in association with Park Theatre
NEVER NOT ONCE by Carey Crim
Directed by Katharine Farmer
Park 90, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, London N4 3JP
Runs from 9 February-5 March 2022
Running Time: 90 mins (no interval)
https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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