Theatre review: Everything I Own

Our theatre reviewer, Hannah Hobson, shares her thoughts on Everything I Own at Hull Truck Theatre.

Everything I Own is a show that comes with its own Spotify playlist. It is a play that uses music as a cross-generational bridge and explores the magic that comes with having a whole world of music at our fingertips, especially at a time when most of us have spent a year on the inside looking out at the world through our phones and computers.

It is the first play I have seen so far that truly grapples with the time and place that we are in. I think many of us have been cautious of artistic attempts to do this; however, Daniel Ward, as always, handles the heaviest topics with the lightest touch. At once moving and entertaining, Everything I Own exists in a world constructed with such indelible humour and yet with a streak of real, aching truth that moves this reviewer to tears.

The play follows Errol as he organises his father’s house following his death. It is a play about loss, grief and generational trauma but also the good things we carry from father to son, whether that be a really good tune or a great family story. Expertly pitched through Amanda Huxtable’s direction, Ward’s writing and Gabriel Paul’s performance, Everything I Own is a masterclass in how theatre can strike a tonal balance between joy and pathos. The audience is carried through with every turn taken.

Paul makes the play feel completely spontaneous and in conversation with its audience, even as it chimes perfectly with the show’s lighting and soundtrack. The audience become part of this deeply personal family story. Through Paul, we engage with Errol’s personal folklore, both the stories he enjoys telling and those he would rather not need to tell.

Ward has written a play that, yes, is about race and the repetition of generational trauma that still haunts every crevice of our society, but its heart belongs to family – Errol’s family. Just in time for Father’s Day, we have a deeply affecting work about the things we get from our parents and what we choose to pass onto our children. It also grapples with the regrets tied up in those choices, such as the conversations we never have or that we fear to begin.

The world of the show has been expertly produced by Hull Truck’s technical and design team. Emma Williams’ set and costume gives us a full sense, even of characters who never appear onstage. At points, Jess Addinall’s lighting lacked some subtlety but ultimately underpinned the narrative well, providing delicate reference points for the play’s changes in tone. Ultimately, the vibe is so beautifully fine-tuned and warm, complemented by the soundscape produced by Matt Clowes’ sound design. We step into the home of Errol’s dad and feel welcome there, as if we have all arrived for the nine-night that could not happen.

After the last year and a half, it has been easy to look for escapism instead of work that fully engages with the pain and trauma of this time. From cultural movements to personal griefs, it has been so difficult to look at these things directly. Everything I Own approaches these subjects with the gravity they deserve, but also with a sense that there is still levity. It is essential viewing, a truly beautiful show that plays in Hull Truck’s Heron Theatre until Saturday 26 June.

[Hannah Hobson – Theatre reviewer]