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The Price of Everything – Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry

Writer: Daniel Bye

Director: Dick Bonham

Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

[rating:3.5]

The Price of Everything Warwick Arts centreWarwick Arts Centre at the University of Warwick is in the middle of its (L)one season – a one-off series of solo performances. Tonight it was Daniel Bye and his performance lecture, The Price of Everything. As we enter, we see a stage almost empty save for a table holding a laptop, a chair and a screen. Bye enters diffidently with shopping bags (full of cartons of milk as we later discover), looking for all the world as if he has stumbled upon the theatre by accident. He introduces the evening, apologising if anyone has come expecting a “proper play”. However, he soon hits his stride discussing the price of milk and comparing, for example, the cost and returns of the arts per person with the cost of milk. Somewhat bizarrely, he starts by discussing the open market (black market) value of various body parts, comparing his total value to the value of Lake Windermere – if it were filled with milk. Sharp eyed readers will have noticed a theme here, and the first half of the evening does revolve largely around milk, using it as a universal comparator and ending by offering all of the audience a third of a pint. On the way, he discusses how his show might have been funded by selling such commodities as an air guitar, on ebay. However, he also makes it clear that not everything he says might literally be true…

In the first half, Bye is amiable, friendly and funny; he easily gets the audience on his side. After serving audience members with glasses of milk in “a short interval or long lull”, however, the second half is more intense, though still stuffed with smiles of recognition, if not out-and-out guffaws. Bye’s message is that small acts of kindness are worthwhile and could even positively escalate out of control, with the implicit hope that we, the audience members, might emulate his story’s central character and theme. Although his stories escalate becoming gradually more fantastical, they resonate with deeper truths. The audience leaves after only an hour possibly not knowing the price of everything, maybe having an inkling of the value of some things, but certainly with plenty to think about.

This is an evening difficult to characterise: Bye’s on-stage persona is likeable and affable, his delivery generally easy-going, but his message is surprisingly hard-hitting and worth a visit.

Runs until 7th June and on tour

 

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