There’s a snippet of dialogue that’s reiterated throughout Vanessa Bates’ play Every Second which encapsulates the piece completely. “Beautiful lake,” one of her characters says, while staring into the abyss of the stage floor. “Man-made,” another responds.
“Still,” says another, unflinching. “It’s beautiful.”
This simple conversation is a reference to human life – to delivering a child into this world. Whether it’s naturally or artificially, it’s still beautiful. And it’s exactly what all four of this play’s characters strive for: a child of their own.
Built on a cast of four, a simple set, and an easily digestible script, Every Second pares back theatrics to focus on the struggles and changing dynamics of two couples (friends), both desperately trying to conceive. The younger, Tim and Meg, are trying naturally and pull on all possible resources (monitoring menstrual cycles, taking Chinese herbs, lubricating with egg white) to achieve this. Bill and Jen are older. Having pushed aside family to favour career, they’ve decided to turn to IVF to conceive, and are beginning the long, clinical process of tests and injections.
But as each pair meets their own setbacks, disappointment and desperation settles in, and relationships are stretched.
What’s refreshing here is the democratic stance this piece takes towards each character’s actions, rendering them all merely victims of incompliant sexual organs. Tim becomes incapable of ejaculation, sex having transformed from fun and romantic to mechanical and mandatory. Meg, being home alone day-long, begins to fixate on trivial things like craft-making and watching a loitering taxi outside her home. Bill takes comfort in long, late-night walks and develops an inability to register children in his presence. And Jen battles with the embarrassment of having her vagina stretched, uterus dyed, and buttocks injected on a nightclub floor (don’t ask, just watch).
Every Second is a fascinating insight into modern human life, and one that director Shannon Murphy has done an exceptional job with. Her minimalist approach highlights her characters’ plights, while her direction creates fluid, yet believable, conversation between its characters. Glenn Hazeldine (Bill) is a particular standout, bringing warmth, charm, humor (wait till you see his ballet moves) and chemistry with Georgina Symes (Jen) that’s never forced, and simply put, is the envy of all lovers.
Every Second plays at Eternity Playhouse until Sunday July 27.