Never Not Once by Carey Crim tells the story of Eleanor, who attempts to find her biological father - uncovering a traumatic family secret in the process.
Why does the best in women always have to forgive the worst in men?
The play explores themes of identity, parenting, consent, entitlement and responsibility, asking the pivotal question: why does the best in women always have to forgive the worst in men?
It’s a morality play that relies heavily on a plot that we have seen frequently played out in various plays, films and TV shows over the last few decades, and even though the pivotal plot-reveals are deployed in a timely and efficacious way, there is a sense that we have watched this before.
As with all morality plays, the plot depends on simplified characterisations that can exemplify one aspect or another of the drama. As a result, the characters lack nuance, complexity, and contradiction, so there are no surprises while we sit and wait as events play out just as we expect them to. A good example of this is Rob - the new boyfriend - who carries the burden of being ‘the good guy’ in the play. His character is a device to show us that not all men are bad and that it’s possible to make good choices in life. His character is given no depth or complexity or contradiction. He just has to be nice.
All of the characters are drawn with similar simplicity - all talking as if they have had years of psychotherapy. Even Doug, the bad guy has had therapy but is yet to accept responsibility for his behaviour. One of the functions of Eleanor’s mum, Allison, is to make him finally be honest about what he has done - so his process can be complete and ‘closure’ can start to happen for the others.
In this kind of post-therapy theatre, there is a high degree of emotional intelligence on stage and very little diversity. In fact, the characters all talk as if they’ve been seeing exactly the same therapist. Nothing is hidden and everyone speaks their mind the entire time - there is no ambiguity and very little subtext. Aside from the fact that this causes the audience to be quite passive as they listen to what they are meant to think and feel, it also seems highly improbable that such an articulate and understanding family would have kept so awful a secret hidden for so long.
In spite of the play’s shortcomings, the production itself is very good. It’s beautifully directed by Katharine Farmer - who uses the small thrust stage to create intimacy and intensity. The cast is as diverse as it is talented. Adrian Grove (Doug), Meaghan Martin (Eleanor) and Flora Montgomery (Allison) show raw vulnerability and strong emotional investment as the plot unfolds. The charismatic Amanda Bright plays rational and scientific Nadine - bringing to the stage a benign warmth - that provides a healing counterbalance to the damage caused by the instigating violence and trauma. Gilbert Kyem Jnr plays Rob with presence and charm, bringing light to the bleakness and offering some optimism for the future.
The performances are enhanced by Roisin Martindale‘s carefully chosen costumes and set design and by Julian Starr’s sound composition that supports and contributes to the various moods.
I found myself longing to watch these actors, playing complex characters with the same history, under the same circumstances.