For many it will be impossible to see writer/director Jack Fairey’s every seven years at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre and not be reminded of the groundbreaking sociological TV documentary series 7 Up that began in 1964. It was a glimpse into the lives of a diverse group of seven year-olds who were revisited every seven years thereafter to see how their aspirations, attitudes and circumstances had developed.
an insight into the impact of personality, circumstances and choices on people's lives.
Fairey doesn’t go as far as the latest installment of the show, 63 Up, but instead settles for five vignettes that septennially capture an episode in the lives of Marcus (Jack Cameron) and Polly (Laura Hannawin) from the age of fourteen. Unlike those in the TV series their lives are fictional, but the scenes provide often moving insights into the process of growing up and the challenges life can present on the way.
Sexual curiosity and experimentation dominate the first scene, which is not the only one to contain some often uncomfortable dialogue and embarrassing moments. More importantly it establishes the characters. Cameron sensitively portrays a shy, timid and vulnerable child, ill-at-ease with those around him, sliding into the mysterious world of adolescence. Whilst Marcus’ confidence grows he still never has the capacity to fully express himself, be open with his family and friends or confront the demons that beset his life. Cameron, often understated, again captures the isolation of a man who cannot open up or be assertive even in his own interest.
In contrast, Hannawin reveals Polly to be far more blunt and open. She talks about things that Marcus would rather avoid and asks questions he would often prefer not to answer or face up to. She also captures the caring and compassionate side of Marcus’ lifelong friend who has stood by him in some of the most difficult times and challenged his inability to cope with himself, whilst making some difficult decisions of her own.
After the initial interest in the two characters is aroused at fourteen there is something of a lull in the following possibly overworked and overly-extended scenes, but thereafter the low-key moments disappear as the real intensity of the piece builds up. With events that provide shocks and turns in the nature of their relationship, the challenges that follow lead to an intense, emotionally draining and tear-jerking climax that makes it all worthwhile.
Associate director and lighting designer Joe Malyan contributes to the mood in several places with sensitive touches. The set by Tim Howe is simple, versatile and functional with clothes racks and boxes containing all that’s necessary for the wardrobe needed to cover the different ages and situations of the characters, with everything in its place thanks to stage manager Zoë Rogers-Holman.
In every seven years Bedivere Arts Company has a fascinating production that provides an insight into the impact of personality, circumstances and choices on people's lives.