Review: ALL THAT I EVER WILL BE by Alan Ball

Dark and clever script demands strong performances

By Ross Larkin

Alan Ball has established himself as a leading American screenwriter, with award winning credits including Six Feet Under and American Beauty. His knack for confronting and exploring the human condition with dark humour and striking realism seems unparalleled. For many, witnessing his work on stage will be a new experience.

All That I Will Ever Be, although five years old, is a lesser-known play by Ball, and while this particular season has returned due to popular demand, it has seldom been performed state-side or in Australia.

As one might expect from Ball, the play focuses on complex relationships – with sexuality, identity and fidelity largely driving the action. Direction and performance, therefore, are intrinsically key in the success of a story whose foundation relies heavily on the perils and quirks of the human condition.

Ball’s characters are multi-faceted, three-dimensional though somehow accessible – hence his universal appeal.  Yet, in the wrong hands, his work runs the risk of losing that combination of raw yet subtle Ball mystique, falling into average, forgettable territory. Taking on the task of directing such challenging material is not a decision that can be made lightly.

All That I Will Ever Be certainly could have fallen into less capable hands than that of director Robert Chuter who thankfully avoided sappy melodrama with which a less-experienced director may have been tempted. His simplistic set and focus on character were safe though wise choices – unfortunately let down, however, by an ensemble of varying capabilities.

In a play heavily driven by performance, there were thankfully no weak links, but with material of this nature, acceptable simply isn’t strong enough. Christian Heath was one of few who convincingly portrayed inner struggle and occasional outward despair with subtlety, depth and balance to engage and evoke the necessary empathy. Yet as Heath got the stakes rising, enticing the audience into Ball’s world as intended – others would swiftly push viewers back to observer status.

Had the calibre of performers all matched Heath’s, Chuter and Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre could have had a very different result on his hands. The kind that Alan Ball’s work calls for.

PLAYING FROM 01-12 AUGUST
Wednesday – Saturday @ 8.00pm
Sunday @ 6.30pm
Full $29 / Conc $23

CHAPEL OFF CHAPEL
12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran, 3181

BOOKINGS 03 8290 7000
www.chapeloffchapel.com.au

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