James Witherspoon checks out the fishy goings on at the Bloomsbury Studio as UCLU Drama Society perform Eoin Bentick’s ‘All in One’
The UCLU Drama Society’s production of All in One is certainly unique: a story of love, the seaside, and fish fingers. Strangely based around the marketing department of Birds Eye—or at least a romanticised version of it set in a seaside village—the plot focuses on the fates and fortunes of Mel and Phil. Mel is the daughter of the Cap’n himself (played by Bella Driessen, Seren John-Wood and Ola Forman) while Phil (played by Nick Brown, Miles Blanch and Freddie House) is a humble sailor looking for recognition. Suddenly finding himself in a position of influence, Phil is rapidly moved up the ranks to become head of marketing—and that’s where things start to go wrong.
Humorously punctuated by the actual Birds Eye adverts (played at a little too low a volume for this reviewer), the play meanders intriguingly through increasingly bizarre occurrences towards a wonderfully absurd climax which defies expectations. Throughout, the standard of acting is incredibly high, with all players contributing to creating a professional looking and polished production. Indeed, this professionalism extends to the set: a quaint old kitchen, with a massive freezer (ha ha), and a projected window prove elegantly adequate for the proceedings, and allow the domestic tension to feel far more genuine than it might otherwise have done. Similarly, the lighting—although used sparingly—is employed to great effect, shining white and blue seaside vibes down onto our characters like a 1950s postcard tableau. Accompanied by a sea shanty soundtrack, the atmosphere is potently lucid.
The first ten minutes are a little confused in terms of plot and intention, and more than once I felt a wisp of a line that was supposed to elicit a laugh, but didn’t. With that said, the dialogue is frequently snappy and raucous laughter is commonplace amongst the audience. Perhaps the surreal stars of the piece are two monologues: one about the laborious history of pies, and the other about the sexual polymorphism of the anglerfish, which provides an expert turning point of the story arc into outright lunacy for the final third.
At times, perhaps, the production feels a little tonally lost, with one scene uncomfortably attempting to ramp up the melodrama to confusing effect. It is, after all, a somewhat quaint comedy, and the threat of death does little to enhance its charms. In another scene, an impassioned Mel vents her anger at the failing business to little emotional effect, and her repeated shouting of ‘You fucked it’ is perhaps unintentionally funny. Usually, however, the production is spot on—carving out its own brand of askew humour and drama from an inspirationally unique source material.
‘All in One’ ends on a suitably poignant note: melancholy, but hopeful for the future. It also does a fantastic job of instantly wrapping up the messy situation that directly precedes it. Overall, my lasting impression of the play, which is both written and produced by UCL’s Eoin Bentick, is that it’s far better than a play about Birds Eye has any right to be. It’s lovely to look at, excellently acted, and frequently humorous in a perfectly odd kind of way. Highly recommended.
Tickets for All in One are still available for Friday 28th and Saturday 29th October