All That is a deliciously funny and heart-warming take on how convoluted modern relationships can get when their very foundation is threatened. Written by Shaun Kitchener (Hollyoaks, Positive) and directed by James Callàs Ball, this production at the King’s Head Theatre, staged as part of their popular Queer Season, is a delightful watch. Through the lives of four housemates – two couples with wildly different outlooks on life – we witness a hilarious evening of misunderstandings, confessions and secrets unfurl as they try to salvage the lives they’ve built together. The show additionally explores themes of love, sex, monogamy and the fallacy of the “right” way for LGBTQ+ couples to manifest their relationships in the public eye.
At the centre of the drama is a decision made by suburban gay couple Taylor (Jordan Laviniere) and Riley (Chris Jenkins), whose financial woes have prompted them to let out the spare room in their Bedford flat, seeking ideal housemates who would bring minimal disruption to their picture-perfect life. Enter Jamie (Imran Adams) and Parker (Matt Greenwood), the charm of their unique personalities exceeded only by their unusual romantic “arrangement” – an open relationship in which they are emotionally exclusive, but not physically. Whilst Riley, a teen pop sensation turned insurance agent, is open to the change brought on by the presence of new housemates, Taylor, a copywriter concerned with keeping up conventions, has his doubts. While the two have been in a happy 10-year long relationship, their belief in monogamy is shaken by the freedom and possibilities offered by Parker and Jamie’s arrangement. When accidental run-ins, hushed flirting, heartfelt admissions and casual conversations over drinks start to occur, each of the four is tested to the very limit. Not only are their preconceptions about love and morality are challenged, but also their faith in their partner and in their relationship.
The heart of this show is in its writing, with Kitchener crafting four deeply relatable, endearing characters whose personalities shine in their words and actions. The text feels real and authentic, almost as if one was eavesdropping on actual conversations with housemates. Ball’s direction allows these “human” moments to shine, with the focus on written dialogue as much as the hilariously diverse reactions by the characters. The cast delivers an honest, authentic performance that allows us to see the characters beyond the obvious labels of sexuality and identity that they grapple with, but for the deeply conflicted humans, they are. Laviniere’s portrayal of Taylor lets us appreciate the funny and the frustrating sides of their preconceptions while Jenkins’ Riley brings a grounding presence to the chaotic situations that ensue. Greenwood’s heartfelt portrayal of Parker’s struggles with mental health is complemented well by Adam’s steady (and entertaining) presence as Jamie. Jack Weir’s light design creates some beautiful moments on stage, supported by Delyth Evans’s minimal sets that allow the performers to move freely in an otherwise tight space. Andrew Reynolds’s sound design brings an upbeat, fluid treatment to scene transitions but its brevity risks being mistaken as too sitcom-y. Overall, the performers breathe a lot of charm, humour and emotion into the text and the audience is able to see this play for what it really is – a drama about people on either side of a relationship, with its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments and profound realizations.
To summarize, All That is a wonderfully crafted take on complex modern relationships. With sharp-witted writing and a powerhouse ensemble of performers, this is one play that leaves you with a lot of smiles and some questions to brew over.
You can watch All That at the King’s Head Theatre N1 1QN until 21st August 2021. Learn more and book your tickets at https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/all-that
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 3rd August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★