Eli Kent pulls off the familiar trope of a show-within-a-show with remarkable flare, assurance and ease in the wacky Playground Collective comedy, All Your Wants And Needs Fulfilled Forever. Paying homage to The Truman Show, the story focuses on Simon Simon (played by Kent himself), living in a stark white box, the protagonist of a TV show. The producers (Joel Baxendale, Victoria Abbott and Hamish Parkinson) set up situations to manipulate his thoughts, decisions and actions at the behest of the robotic voice coming from a single lightbulb dangling from the ceiling. Abbot in particular stands out, her range of characters impressive, from insipid telemarketer to her heartbreaking rendition of Simon’s two-dimensional girlfriend, fighting for her own character arc.
Kent’s script is loaded with smart, wry humour; we are told that the show is “a completely universal story of a young white heterosexual man of privilege, so [we] should all be able to relate”. The crew quabble over what music to play, or where the plot should go next, but ultimately the autocratic bulb silences their bickering with his unwavering obsession for Simon to reach “the apex”.
The highlight is undoubtedly the set. The designer, Sam Trubridge, has created a perfectly clean, bright, white cube, with unzippable windows as the only portals to the outside world. As well as being the macrocosm for the (invisible) cage in which Simon keeps his pet rats, it keeps out the mayhem and clutter of the wings, perfectly depicting the tidily scripted stories we tell about our lives, versus their chaotic actualities. The set, coupled with gorgeously erratic sound and lighting, (courtesy of Gareth Hobbs and Marcus Mcshane) creates a deeply intuitive backdrop, integral to the show.
Occasionally, it does feel a bit like getting your scarf caught in a tube door and being dragged off at high speed into the night. Whilst fast-paced and full of startling twists and turns, it has a tendency to become uncomfortably unstuck. The unravelling of the plot in pursuit of the apex, though intentional, isn’t all that convincing, and is laboured a little too fantastically and for little too long. This is unfortunate, as the ending (which should have landed rather poignantly) comes down with a bit of thud.
The wheels come off what begins as a well oiled machine of highly perceptive storytelling, but it’s undeniable that there is plenty of potential here. A stellar effort by cast and crew all-round, and whilst the title isn’t exactly what it promises, it certainly gives you a fun hour of theatre.
CAST AND CREW
Director – Robin Kerr
Producer – Molly O’Shea
Writer – Eli Kent
Design – Sam Trubridge
Lighting – Marcus McShane
Music – Gareth Hobbs
Starring – Eli Kent, Victoria Abbott, Hamish Parkinson and Joel Baxendale