Written and directed by Rachel Yates
Pros: A lovely set design. Deeply moving performances from all of the cast.
Cons: Somewhere around the middle I felt it went a little slower than necessary. The show covers a lot of material but there was so much to take in I felt it could run straight through.
Our Verdict: A strong attempt to explore the thoughts and feelings of the UK foster care system. Worth seeing!
|Courtesy of the Chickenshed Theatre|
The Chickenshed Theatre was surrounded by children of all ages as I arrived. An Arts Centre that focuses on the performing arts, this wonderful company has made its home in a purpose built theatre, studio and workshop space. Its emphasis is on inclusion and it now boasts workshops, theatre shows and the opportunity for young people to do both BTECs and BAs. Amazing stuff.
All I’ve Known was performed in the Studio Space. Tucked away upstairs, the studio is a deep room with two tiers of seats and a well-shaped floor for performance. The first thing you notice is the set. The whole room is surrounded by white cloth. Layers and layers of hanging washing give the set a complexity that is hard to achieve in a studio space. The rest of the set is basic: six white stools surround three tables made into one; black and white photos adorn the shelves at the back; and red tulips create a stark contrast with the plain colours of the rest of the set. This simple yet thoughtful design sets the mood for what turns out to be a considerate play.
The show is a chronological story of a family and their adopted son Harry – a black child fostered by a white family – interwoven with the stories of others, both adopters and adoptees. It was a pleasant mix of recorded interviews and actors performing verbatim with the specific story in the middle, gluing the show together. We weren’t expected to just watch, we were expected to understand.
The cast deliver a strong ensemble piece. No one actor outshines the rest which seems appropriate in such a show as this. Their scenes as a family unit were especially touching and they truly make you believe they were siblings and parents who continued to love each other despite the ups and downs.
The soundscape adds another dimension to the show. The use of the real voices of those interviewed by writer and director Rachel Yates gave added emotion to the piece and I particularly enjoyed the method of interweaving pre-recorded sounds with live action, often as scenes were changing. The show also uses projection as another means of explaining the intricacy of the subject. Photos were an important instrument used to show children their history before and after adoption. The show’s use of photos and videos of what – I presume – were real events, was an attempt to visualise these complex situations on stage. Unfortunately however, a lot of the photos weren’t very clear and I couldn’t make them out.
My one other criticism is that I felt that perhaps a few too many subjects were covered. It did help the audience to understand how complicated these situations are, but I can’t help but think that I came away a little overwhelmed by it all.
All I’ve Known is a worthy piece and writer Rachel Yates clearly has a huge amount of respect for the subject and the people, both parents and children. She delicately balances their interviews and doesn’t abuse anyone’s emotions. Often it is what is left unsaid that hits hardest and Yates should be celebrated for knowing how to do this. The play is well thought out and the Chickenshed Theatre is definitely worth a visit; they are doing some thought provoking work out there.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
All I’ve Known runs at the Chickenshed until the 18th May 2013.
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