Content warning: this review of You Will See Everything contains mention of death and grief.
Accessibility Only Adds
I often wish that people paid more attention to youth-led theatre, and You Will See Everything is a shining example of why.
Brought to us by Definitely Fine (a theatre company specifically for and by young bereaved people), You Will See Everything is platformed on the National Student Drama Festival. Masterfully written and directed by Stella Green, the dramatic and aesthetic content of this piece is extremely impactful and proves that accessibility in theatre adds unquestionable value to the production.
Only one character inhabits the stage, Daughter (performed hauntingly by Tilly Botsford). The set walks a surreal line between a hellish throne and an incubating, comforting space, like a mother’s womb. The first two minutes consist of audio description, outlining the Daughter’s appearance and the performance design itself; this description is just as dramatically valuable as the next 20 minutes of the piece.
Following Footsteps Without Filling Them
As I watched Daughter’s monologue unravel many layers of grief, I couldn’t help but think of Sarah Kane’s work. You Will See Everything is not afraid to lean into disgust, with thick, black liquid oozing through white lace and fingers. The language is deliberately carnal and grotesque: Daughter describes the experience of her own birth being her mother’s death. Much like with Kane‘s plays, I feared that, upon blinking, I would miss something. I couldn’t help but give my undivided attention throughout the entire play.
However, this performance is not overly derivative of Kane or indeed any other playwright, which is what I appreciate the most. It is not a new thing, in modern drama, to see an emotionally anguished woman monologuing her way down the abyss, but Green’s script reaches into such an intimate experience of grief, such a specific loss, that the show is definitely a brilliant production in its own right.
Not only does Green explore the grief of losing an important person in one’s life, but she also demonstrates the ways in which grief manifests in other relationships. Romance is a grounding sensation; Daughter harbours resentment towards people with the privilege of two parents who were born with the “right to certainty”, wanting to take from people the things that she lacked. Grief is a door that opens Daughter up to a complex web of intensity, which leads to exaggerating the extent of her power and then unapologetic self-loathing in the same breath. Ultimately, it ends in complete nihilism.
Acting Is More Than The Face
Tilly Botsford’s performance is stunning. She flits effortlessly from one emotion to another, and her body language works incredibly in tandem with the monologue. When Daughter expresses her disdain for those who are able to carry the what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen mindset, she immediately switches to a more masculine body language. She does this again when she says that people like her are aware of a darkness that others are not, in the way dogs can hear higher frequencies that humans can’t. Legs apart, leaning back, she sparked in me the jealousy towards the nonchalance of oblivious privilege. In just this subtle transition, I felt the rage of talking to someone who does not know what they have.
The most feminine body language kicks in when Daughter confides in the romantic world. She accentuates her chest, her shoulders, and her waist when she describes how devastatingly low she feels. Her more seductive gestures have an air of desperation for understanding, or to have someone acknowledge her pain. While her facial expressions are remarkably on-point throughout the entire performance, her body language is particularly fascinating.
The excellent understanding between the script and Botsford’s performance moved me in a way that was surprisingly easy. Beforehand, when I saw that the grief in question was the death of a mother, I was worried that I would only be able to sympathise with the show’s protagonist. After all, we are in a realm of loss that is incomprehensible until we experience it. But the reminder that we are made of “dust” and that there is no prophecy for us to fulfil, as well as the feeling of the ground shifting under you, all the while not fully knowing what it is you lack, is what pushed me from sympathising to empathising with Daughter.
It is one thing for a play to make its audience think and feel, but a truly promising performance gives us a glimpse into completely unknown experiences. I felt the need to hug my own mother a little tighter after watching Green’s piece. You Will See Everything had a profound impact on me as a viewer, and I would highly recommend it as a tremendous example of young theatre.
You can still watch You Will See Everything on the NSDF website here.
Words by Elizabeth Sorrell.
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