Writer: Daniel Ward
Director: Amanda Huxtable
Everything I Own is very much a play for today. Totally topical in that the Covid pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement are integral to the narrative, it is another example of the current popularity of relatively short, interval-free character monologues. There is an obvious practical reason for this as theatres begin to operate again in the shadow of the pandemic, but it’s proving a good time to show the quality of such work.
Hull Truck Theatre has re-opened with a series of three such monologues in its Homecomings season and Everything I Own is the second of them. There is a double sense of home, with Hull Truck opening its doors again to its public and Daniel Ward investigating the concept of home to an Afro-Caribbean Briton.
Gabriel Paul, easily inhabiting the role of Errol, flicks a cloth desultorily at the odd bit of dust on the neat shelves of the sitting-room set, greets us all like old friends and settles down with a cup of tea. What could be more British, he asks, before moving on to other things like fish and chips that are British – or are they?
So within five minutes or so we are aware that we will be exploring the ambiguities of Britishness and our guide will be this amiably trustworthy chap. Much of the play could be considered ruminations rather than narrative, but the story that emerges is this: Errol’s father migrated from Jamaica to Hull (apparently under the mistaken impression that there was some connection between Kingston, Jamaica, and Kingston-on-Hull), he has died of the coronavirus and Errol and his siblings are clearing the house, and Errol is both proud and worried at his son’s involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement.
But where is Errol between the generations? He is the guy who gets on with everyone, regardless of race, despite many prompts to anger over the years, some mere irritations such as comedy stereotypes (bad enough if you get mocked at school because of them), one incident at least far more threatening. So should he have been more pro-active, as his son is? And, after so many false dawns, is this the time when things are going to change?
Daniel Ward’s humane script admirably tempers its serious message with amusing mundane trivia (who gets his dad’s bottle of special vintage rum?), but runs the risk of starting hares rather than pursuing them: it’s thought-provoking, but could it say more? Also both the play and Amanda Huxtable’s detailed production might sit better in a studio theatre.
No reservations about Gabriel Paul’s superb performance, however. Again the conversational quality would fit a studio theatre, but he involves the audience totally and moves seamlessly through a range of emotions, always ready to return, after recalling the idiocy, abuse and aggression of racism, to an expansive happiness with his dad’s Spotify playlist – before he plays us out with Ken Boothe’s version of the play’s title song.
Runs until June 26th 2021