Review of 'Anything is Possible if you Think about it Hard Enough' at the Southwark Playhouse
This review was written on behalf of North West End UK and was originally published here.
When an overwhelming wave of grief and disbelief hit you suddenly, especially in the midst of what was supposed to be a beautiful moment in life, the biggest fallout isn’t from the first hit but from the almost never-ending ripples it leaves in its wake. This sentiment plays out thoroughly in Cordelia O’Neill’s new play Anything Is Possible If You Think About It Hard Enough, currently being staged by the Small Things Theatre at the Southwark Playhouse. With its tightly-knit dialogue, intimate staging and breathtaking performances, the show takes us through the different stages of a couple’s relationship, from the first date to the bittersweet arguments, focusing on the loss of their stillborn child, and the crippling isolation and unhappiness it brings forth.
Photo Credits: Taz Martin
At the centre of the story are Alex and Rupert, two people with widely different personalities and belief systems, and their whirlwind romance. Rupert works in finance and is a strong believer in a hyper-organized lifestyle. Alex is a free spirit who rejects convention and predictability in her day. Their first encounter, a caffeinated meeting on the underground, ignites a spark that carries over to a first date and further. Their different outlooks to life bring them closer, each finding the other’s perspective to be a refreshing change from the people they’ve dated in the past. Fast forward a few months, Alex is pregnant and they’re deciding baby names and what colour to paint the nursery and many other decisions that seek to mark a new chapter in their lives. Then Alex goes into labour, their baby is born still – and their world implodes. As they both struggle to pick up the pieces and carry on with life, the distance between them grows. Conversations turn bitter and arguments turn personal as they seek to rebuild their relationship. The strength and resilience of their connection is put to the test as they endeavour to move on.
Gemma Lawrence delivers a hauntingly emotional and gripping portrayal of Alex. Balancing the character’s unconventional personality in the first half and neurotic slips into immense grief in the aftermath of her child’s death in the second, Lawrence grabs our attention throughout the show with a seething intensity that brings out the innate drama of O’Neill’s writing. Huw Parmenter brings out the heartwarming honesty, spirited hope and hilarious aloofness in the character of Rupert. Blending superb comedic timing and body language that brings out the character’s socially awkward disposition, Huw Parmenter is also able to wring out the complex emotional state of Rupert and his (usually delayed) vocalization of his feelings. Kate Budgen’s direction delivers a tightly crafted medley of action and dialogue which allows us to appreciate the giddy, fast-moving nature of the couple’s relationship. There is masterful crafting of how time (and consequently, emotions) manifests on stage, raising the stakes even more in its silences. Lucy Cullingford’s movement direction complements this with a swift movement quality in the performers that allows them to indicate these shifts in time and space. Camilla Clarke’s design makes stellar use of the intimate staging choices by reimaging the humble bed and mattress as a site of discovery, debate and denial. Sally Ferguson’s light design paints an atmospheric representation of the shifting emotions whilst Beth Duke’s sound design complements the uncomplicated nature of the on-stage action. O’Neill’s writing is the biggest highlight of the piece, combining the two characters widely different personalities, tones and tempers into an endearingly charming portrayal of a couple struggling with a monumental life event.
To summarize, Anything Is Possible If You Think About It Hard Enough is a powerful testament to the resilience (and the more visible) fragility of the human spirit as it is forced to grapple with things beyond its understanding.
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 24th September 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★
You can watch Anything Is Possible If You Think About It Hard Enough at the Southwark Playhouse SE1 6BD until 9th October. Learn more about it and book your tickets at https://www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show-whats-on/anything-is-possible-if-you-think-about-it-hard-enough/