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Have you ever walked in on a conversation you felt you really shouldn’t be privy to? That awkward observation of something not really meant for strangers’ ears. Tonight’s online performance of All On Her Own leaves me with that same feeling. Arguably, managing to provoke any visceral emotional response from an online audience is an achievement, but the atmosphere created in this piece doesn’t feel like a deliberate theatrical choice; it just feels uncomfortable.
Written by Terence Rattigan, All On Her Own is a one-woman show following the late-night thoughts of Rosemary, as she grapples with questions surrounding her late husband’s death. It’s a pretty intense tale to tell in just under 30 minutes. Consequently, the change in gears is so rapid that I struggle to truly connect with any individual moments. The script isn’t bad, but for something so domestic, it feels a little too performative — a strange criticism for a piece of theatre I’ll grant you, but the theatricality of the piece seems counterproductive to the intimate, naturalistic style.
Janie Dee takes on the role of Rosemary and performs with a confidence that manages to overcome some of my aforementioned issues with the piece. However, the pace affects Dee’s performance in much the same way as it does the script. Although self-indulgent acting may not always be looked on favourably, in the case of this performance, Dee needs to be allowed more time to really explore the highs and lows of her character’s emotional journey. Without this, the peaks and troughs of this character’s story are maneuvered so fast, the plot just becomes flat.
Although a one-woman show, parts of All On Her Own are in fact a two-person conversation. Dee makes a valiant attempt at balancing the different narrative voices, but the resonant atmosphere in two-hander scenes is almost impossible for Dee to create alone. As a result, the conversations within the script come across awkwardly, creating the uncomfortable atmosphere that burdens this piece.
With so many shows not being digital voluntarily, it seems unfair to overly criticise certain shortcomings that are unique to online theatre. However, whether or not the set-up is a consequence of Covid, I think the format could be approached with more creativity. The filming lacks imagination, with the piece being shot without the addition of any meaning or detail in the overall cinematography.
All On Her Own has many of the solutions to the production’s problems already: a strong lead actor and a fabulous location, are just two elements that if used differently, could elevate this piece to new heights. Unfortunately, a lack of interesting creative choices currently leaves this piece flat.
All On Her Own is playing online until February 21. Further information and tickets available online.