Writer: Carey Crim
Director: Katharine Farmer
Seated around three sides of an elegant and cosy room, audiences for American writer Carey Crim’s play Never Not Once may feel transported back in time. A Persian carpet is spread across the floor and framed prints are arranged tidily on the far wall, hanging above an invitingly comfortable sofa. Yet the traditional flavour of Roisin Martindale’s set design belies the very modern nature of the relationships seen in the play.
Eleanor (Meaghan Martin) is the teenage daughter of same sex parents who is about to become engaged to a fellow student, steady and dependable Rob (Gilbert Kyem). Her birth mother, Allison (Flora Montgomery), a former dancer, is reserved and slightly distant, unlike her partner, Nadine (Amanda Bright), a successful scientist, who is emotionally closer to Eleanor. Their home in Eastern USA is a picture of domestic bliss until Eleanor becomes obsessed with finding her father and hires a private detective to help her in achieving that goal.
Crim’s play starts out being about heritage and identity, but, once a can of worms has been opened, it moves in different, darker directions. Investigations point to Doug (Adrian Grove) as the likely father and disturbing revelations rock Eleanor’s world. The play crams a great deal of plot into barely 80 minutes of running time, but it has a storyline which could have been taken from a television soap opera and the challenge presented to director Katharine Farmer is to raise it above that level.
For three quarters of the drams, Farmer’s production is calm and absorbing, helped by commendably restrained performances, particularly from Montgomery and Bright. Even occasional dollops of American-style sentimentality prove to be only mildly irritating. Unfortunately, the final quarter comes close to risible melodrama, as Crim’s sole objective seems to become to show Doug squirming in repentance for past misdemeanours. The expected examination of the psychological effect on Eleanor of her discoveries fails to materialise; instead, she has an unconvincing panic attack, in response to which Nadine offers the useful advice: “keep breathing”.
Possibly Crim tries too hard to tie things up neatly, but it is disappointing that a drama which begins as a thoughtful account of the dilemmas thrown up by 21st Century relationships ultimately falls apart. The play deserves better.
Runs until 5 March 2022