Gareth is a man with a problem. Battling a gambling addiction, when his job at Prime Travel Agency is “taken from him” things begin to spiral out of control. All of Me is an exploration of the inner workings of Gareth’s mind, and tells the story of how his inner turmoil sparks greater problems. This newly written play from young company Anything Other is undertaking a run at London’s Vault Festival following an incredibly successful run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Written by Martin Brett and under the artistic direction of Liz Bacon this one-man show performed by Jack Wilkinson explores the realms of what is possible on a stage with one man and a mountain of boxes.
This production’s set (designed by Nicola Ralph) is definitely the co-star of this one-man show. Stacks of office storage boxes surround Gareth, but underneath each lid lies a surprise. The play begins as Gareth talks us through how it all started: the day Derek Wentworth fired him. Out pops a teapot as we hear exactly how Derek takes his tea. Wilkinson effortlessly narrates this superb script around these towering stacks. Much of the set is in fact concealed within the boxes, which are opened at opportune moments to reveal objects that carry the story along. This set’s form of complex simplicity makes this performance a joy to watch as the performer seamlessly interacts his surroundings. As Gareth is driven closer and closer to the brink the set begins to mimic his mental state as boxes become overturned as he finally snaps. Control (or rather the lack of) is particularly resounding within the script. The uniformity and organisation of the office boxes highlights an individual pushing against the powerlessness he currently feels and as his control begins to slip so do his surroundings.
“When it’s working, you won’t even pay attention to the time; there no time, there is just that win”
All of Me’s exploration of the addiction of gambling is both sensitive and enlightening, intertwining clever wit with real insight into Gareth’s psyche, and the psyche more broadly of people whose lives have fallen off the rails. Gambling becomes a means of escapism and is justified as a legitimate new career path: “I earn more in 10 minutes on Paddy Power than they do all day”. However it is an escaping that leads to isolation and Gareth’s connection to the real world becomes more and more disjointed. This is particularly emphasised through brief flashbacks of Gareth’s father, and in Gareth’s interactions with the audience. Our involvement in this monologue makes us almost complicit in the play’s outcome as our protagonist drags us along with him for the ride. Gareth is a man who is both paradoxically self-aware and in deep denial. Using niftily packaged paper rolls, which unfurl from two of the stacks of boxes, and a marker pen he draws stickman representations of two old regulars of the betting shops he himself frequented before he discovered the convenience of online blackjack. Yet he doesn’t seem to identify himself with the caricatures he presents. In his overly big brown suit jacket with Prime Travel nametag Gareth looks every bit the redundant salesman and it is his refusal to disassociate himself with his old job that leads us to the play’s climax.
A play of twists and turns with a new surprise hidden in every box, Anything Other have conjured up a valuable piece of fringe theatre in All of Me. This production tackles hopelessness and addiction in a compelling and visually dynamic way. All of me can be seen at The Vaults Festival until the 5th March at 18:30 with extra weekend matinees on the 4th and 5th at 15:15. For tickets visit here.