Every Seven Years is a coming-of-age drama that plays with the idea that our bodies are reborn every seven years, once all our cells have regenerated.
At the start of the play, it isn’t immediately clear where we are or what’s happening. The haze effect on stage creates an eery atmosphere, but suddenly the silence and eeriness are broken by the warm and bubbly chatter of Polly and Marcus, who both start off in the piece aged 14. I would have put the characters nearer the 10 – 12 mark by the depictions, although I appreciate this is immensely difficult to portray accurately when you are ageing the same characters throughout.
The play instantly opens a door to us hopeful feminists, unapologetically discussing female masturbation and crucially, noting how uncomfortable and uncommon it is to talk about. There are also some particularly lovely moments in the writing when Polly is intimately discussing women’s pleasure during foreplay and admits that “no one talks about girls liking it, or guys liking it either.” This feels very accurate and telling of our society’s priorities when it comes to women’s sexual enjoyment.
The actual plot of the play is pretty straightforward — boy meets girl, friendship spans over decades and they must figure out whether to cross over the friendship line. You could say that it has been done far too many times, but in this case, I’d argue that sometimes traditional and slightly predictable plots can still be some of the most enjoyable. This play, despite a bit of a cliché ending, explores very relevant and important issues, which makes it stand out from the rest.
The coming-of-age themes interweave throughout, and there are some lovely references to being different and weird, whereby talented writer Jack Fairey, who also directs the piece, notes how people often avoid those who are sad, both literally and in terms of “not being cool.” This feels very relevant to today’s younger generations, and the peer pressure to be happy all the time to comply with that false perfect social media life. It reminds me of my early (and I admit reluctant) clubbing days, when my friends had a go at me for looking miserable, rather than asking me if I was all right.
Polly, played by Laura Hannawin, is charming and relatable, constantly putting her foot in it throughout the play. The depiction of teenage awkwardness by Hannawin and co-star Jack Cameron, is scrumptious to watch.
Cameron splendidly portrays the gentle and calm Marcus, who we all have time for, and so many times in the piece I want to give him a hug, for clearly he is unable to express his true feelings. It is a beautiful and tender moment when Polly does eventually give him the hug he politely asks for and our warmth and empathy for both characters grows.
Perhaps the best line to summarise this piece is when the two protagonists reach the age of 27. Marcus says he feels ‘way too old’ and Polly says she feels “way too young.” It reflects how despite so much freedom in our lives to do what we want today, a lack of boundaries and structure can leave us floating endlessly in what feels like the middle of nowhere, afraid, uncertain, and terrified to commit to anything at all. This play reminds us that it is clear (where mental health and personal growth is concerned), that our priorities need to change.
Once Every Seven Years concludes its run at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, and I shall be on the lookout for more of this company’s praiseworthy work in the future.
Every Seven Years played at the Jack Studio Theatre until 24 July 2021. For more information, see Jack Studio Theatre online.