“Safety, stepping up, connection…(love) can also mean a lot of lies.” These are some of the initial suggestions that permeate All The Ways Theatre Company’s debut show, All the Ways to Tell You.
Fairy lights frolic up the legs of a chair. Upon this chair, cradling a guitar, Emily Burton serenades the audience as various props, including a picnic blanket and basket, find their way onto the stage. She is joined by Bec Weldon, Ella Thompson and Lachlan McNeil, as song melts into poetry.
“What does love mean to you?”
A sudden snap of light sees the action shift to a street interview projected behind them; throughout the performance, the cast interacts with the montage, breaking up and building on the individual experiences and voices it foregrounds.
The ringing of bike bells punctuates the memory of a childhood Christmas; one girl’s love and mourning for a cat are drawn out through periodic narration that is like the unspoken thoughts and memories running through her mind; four letters are read out in a poignant patchwork, drawing out another interviewee’s assertion that writing is how they best express that four-letter word.
Indeed, expression of love, and the difficulties of doing so, are primary themes throughout the piece.
All the Ways to Tell You underscores the paradoxes that plague our desire – and perhaps need – to express love; simultaneous feelings of certainty and uncertainty, thriving off physical touch yet carefully avoiding it, loving love yet being afraid to pursue it.
Soundbites of everyday people’s experiences are tied together by the strings of the guitar, disappearing and reappearing over the course of the show, and extrapolated through poetry and choreography
Bec Weldon climbs a stepladder as she relates a story about struggling to say, “I love you”, each step corresponding to a step towards the crescendo of the recital.
Be prepared for clever transitions, subverted expectations, and astute ambiguities:
“Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you.”
“I don’t think you can.”
Is this a conversation over the phone or an argument unfolding?
All the Ways draws thought-provoking analogies between contemporary problems such as temperamental technological connectivity, and the diminishing communication that marks the downfall of a friendship.
Alongside the downbeat moments, you’ll find yourself smiling subconsciously at the endearing and familiar encounters, awkwardness, and insecurities this talented troop will take you through.
When have you heard love described as finger-lickin’ good?
“A labour of love” in the making for almost 10 years according to the cast, All the Ways to Tell You is personal yet universal, exploring love for family and friends, romantic love, and love for oneself.
As the performance comes to an end, the few props upon the stage gradually disappear, perhaps reflecting the simplicity of love at its core.
Love is lost, learned, and hard to express, yet one thing the show unequivocally asserts is the importance of doing the latter.
Of all the ways to tell you this, Burton, Weldon, Thompson and McNeil have mastered the message through multimedia – and it’s not the only thing you’ll take home with you (see below).
Four Pelicans out of five!
All the Ways to Tell You runs from the 21st to 24th of January.
Words by Millie Muroi
Images by Ashley Browse unless otherwise stated.