THEATRE REVIEW | ALL THIS LIVING!

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By Maria Dunne

 

There are many things in Camilla Blunden’s solo performance in All This Living got right. Her performance as Jay, the “old woman”, expressed the childish and lonely nature being in the “third stage” of life. With her frankness, fun and grip on life, Blunden was able to reflect on both life and death. Her discussion on this relationship between “life and death” is to be commended.

 

All This Living! was something, I must admit, I felt ill-equipped to judge. Jay continuously voiced her anger and humiliation at being called an “old woman” by youths in the toilets. I felt Jay look at me in the intimate setting with disapproval. The final line was a jab at my generation, the slow-walking phone users – and this was where I wanted to shake this out of her system.

 

I felt as if her character felt a sense of entitlement due to her age or that the youths owed her something. I wanted to tell her most people feel invisible in their life, and that it’s not restricted to the amount of angsty teen dramas made where the girl complains of being invisible. I don’t want to dismiss anyone’s experience, but it felt like the script could easily be about anyone and it felt a shame that some of the language was excluded.

 

That being said, there were elements in her character that resonated with me. Her juvenile qualities of saying no to medicine and her view of herself as a “burden” reminded me of my own grandmother. She is very timid and as she has aged she continuously drops the fact that she is a burden and burrows her neck down.

 

To an extent, I found her presentation of age as a niche view of the shared moment. I found this as she used western folklore on Baba Yaga, goddesses and immortals. It was bewitching but also distancing. Her reality became further and further from mine.

 

Camilla Blunden as Jay in 'All This Living!'

Camilla Blunden as Jay in ‘All This Living!’

 

Camilla Blunden’s character held the stage with such eloquence and grandeur that it felt less transparent and accessible. Her character, to me, was an idea crafted impeccably, but without the spark of humanity. I felt lost in a sea of words that were beautifully crafted, but not at all welcoming.

 

To be fair, parts of her speeches nearly got me there. Her discussion of her friend entering the dementia ward or her inability to get service were moving, but it just didn’t work for me.

 

The production of All This Living! had an interesting aesthetic, with its colour palette being sombre and dark. It made a nice contrast to Jay’s colourful confetti and clothing she reveals underneath the onesie.

 

An element I thought was particularly successful was the soundscape created by Kimmo Vennonen. This soundscape elevated the mood in each scene and worked with Blunden’s performance. This should be particularly noted in the scene in which Jay first discovers the voice. The timing heightened the tension and moved it along.

 

All This Living! is about growing old and acknowledging death. Although there were things that didn’t sit well for me, this solo play is interesting in its way of reflecting on ideas that are deemed by Jay as a “no-no” to discuss.

 

All This Living! will be playing at the Butterfly Club till 26 February.

 

 

 

Maria Dunne is a writer from North Coburg. Before writing for the Northsider she wrote freelance for The Big Issue and Buzzcuts.

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