1987. Hull. Two couples in the same hospital each have a child. Leah is born to a working-class family and Chris into a middle class one. As they grow up, their lives are shaped by world events, social class and their parents’ income and ambition.
Neither leads a particularly notable life, but it’s their millennial everyman-ness that Luke Barnes celebrates. Middle Child sets their first thirty years to a rock anthem soundtrack with a David Bowie-esque narrator, elevating the everyday to the extraordinary in a guitar-fuelled, sweaty, cathartic gig of a show.
We see Leah, Chris and their families every ten years, with music and costume that suitably adapts to each passing decade. This checking in effectively snapshots their lives and the choices that dictate their paths. But the dialogue-driven scenes are too short to foster much conflict between the characters. Barnes uses narration much more heavily; this diffuses most of the tension that builds within in the scenes but endows the show with the spirt of an epic poem.
Fortunately, the narration has a bold, uncompromising energy that, combined with the driving rock tunes, never lets the energy drop. Marc Graham wears all of his emotions on his bad boy, leather jacket sleeves as he tears about the stage and clambers through the audience. Rules don’t apply to him, and he has no regard for systems set up to limit people’s freedoms.
The overall effect is one of carefully exposed raw nerves, left to fight and fuck and fend for themselves in an unforgiving world. The personal shortcomings of Chris, Leah and their families both rallies and comforts the audience, reassuring us that most of us are failures and fuckups and that by just getting on with things the best we can, we are living our best lives.
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything runs through 27 August.
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