I have seen many plays which carefully weave music into the storyline, but I have never been provided with a playlist to listen to before I watch a show. Through his music, I feel I’ve met Errol’s father before a single word is spoken about him. I can picture him dancing, laughing and drinking, and so, when Errol (played by Gabriel Paul) describes his grief, I feel I grieve a little too.
Errol’s story is one of loss, community, joy and discrimination. It’s excellently written by Daniel Ward (of The Canary and The Crow fame) and is timely without being overdone. Everything I Own takes place in the here and now; the pandemic is an unavoidable circumstance and the Black Lives Matter movement a constant theme.
Ward creates the world of Errol’s Dad’s flat. A warm, unfussy place with bags of personality — it’s a little piece of Jamaica in Hull. The lighting grows gradually warmer during the play as Errol narrates his journey and the use of patois and the East Yorkshire dialect helps the audience understand Errol’s Caribbean roots and Hull upbringing. It feels as though both locations are characters in the play, equally responsible for the creation of Errol, the man.
Paul is a captivating performer, very physically adaptable with an excellent sense of comic timing. Direction by Amanda Huxtable is clear and intimate. There are times when Errol directly addresses the audience, asking them questions and making jokes. Though the play addresses very serious issues and injustices, humour is never very far away and is well appointed. I laugh out loud at Errol’s interrupted attempts to toast his father, but still have a tear in my eye. At times, this is not an easy watch and rightly so. Errol speaks as a man often discriminated against due to his race, but who is, understandably, too exhausted to fight the same fight again. There are many quotable lines but two stand out to me most “It wasn’t until I moved to Hull that I realised I was black” and “If only people liked immigrants as much as they like their food”.
Ward has created a wonderful character in Errol. A beautiful balance of everyman and exception; so different to myself and yet so relatable. We can all identify with the changes forced upon us by the pandemic, the inability to truly celebrate the life of a loved one who has passed, and the family arguments over inheritance.
This is a great piece, let down only by the fact that the recording I watch has some technical difficulties (the sound isn’t great, though that could have been my laptop) and a couple of fumbles from Paul — I suspect it is an early show in the run.
In my opinion, good plays should have an audience leaving the theatre having both enjoyed themselves and thinking deeply about what they have seen. Everything I Own does just that.
Everything I Own is playing until 26 June 2021. For more information and to book, please visit Hull Truck Theatre online.