Whilst online theatre still doesn’t feel quite right to me, in the current climate it’s hard not to be supportive of venues such as The Space who are doing their utmost to make their shows accessible. So, the offering of an online Saturday matinee was one that I thought should be tried out.
Mrs C’s Collective’s That Was All is live streamed direct from the venue, as well as a live audience in attendance. It’s reassuring to hear actual audience chatter and the sound of people taking their seats, something all online theatre should retain. Of course, there are issues with live streaming; the biggest here being the light saturation that causes some blurring as onstage lighting alters, but thankfully it’s not enough to ruin the enjoyment. It’s also a delight that it is a static one camera set up. What you don’t need is anything too clever: let us just watch the whole stage without someone directing where we should be looking.
That Was All, a one-woman, one act play, sees Jennie Eggleton playing a daughter, friend, young adult, trying to make sense of life through a series of memories, seemingly as a therapy session. Those memories are fragmented, flicking repeatedly between two main events; a typical day at the pub that is gate-crashed by her dad, and the more surreal, unusual time spent with El Delvino, a rather delightful over-the-top self-proclaimed mystic healer. It’s almost a yin and yang of reality and spiritualism, two different ways we may attempt to really find meaning in our lives.
Francis Grin’s writing is subtle, sometimes too subtle. It both frustrates and delights at various times. Frustration comes at having to wonder about many aspects that perhaps shouldn’t need to be questioned; whether our central character is actually retelling this through a therapy session, and just what age she is (I was sure she was a young teen for some time). And joy because, yes, it leaves plenty to ponder on as we hurtle towards the end, and of course then to discuss post-show on the way home (if we weren’t already at home watching this). Even the gentle ending is almost an unfinished sentence, although it does finally answer why she is seeking to make sense of life.
Eggleton’s performance is compelling enough that, even from the other side of a computer screen, as her tensions rise you can feel it, sense it, almost find yourself edge that little closer to the screen. It’s a shame that it’s slightly ruined by some questionable stage direction to present different characters from vastly different stage positions; one scene late on sees Eggleton move back and forth behind a chair, repeatedly flicking the trailing mic wire over it, causing a slapping of wire on stage that does irritate, whilst the time taken to continuously reposition risks losing focus on the scene itself. It’s a small gripe, not one that should take away from the performance, but it can do so nevertheless.
Come the end, the predominant thought is that That Was All was a Saturday afternoon well spent, although one that would be more enjoyable to have witnessed in person and not on screen. At times it may be a little too subtle for its own good, but as a play that you’d want to discuss in the bar afterwards, this is a worthy piece.
Written by: Francis Grin
Directed by: Charlotte Everest
Produced by: Mrs C’s Collective
This show has completely its current run. You can find details of other shows playing at The Space, including further live streams, on their website.