Never Not Once: gut-wrenching drama at Park Theatre ****

Never Not Once runs at Park Theatre in Finsbury Park

Never Not Once runs at Park Theatre in Finsbury Park - Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

First performed in 2017, this gut-wrenching drama of lies, sexual violence, and identity arrives at Park Theatre from across the pond with a clutch of awards and critical acclaim.

Just 80 minutes long, Katherine Farmer's well-paced, spare production had the audience absorbed throughout.

Nadine and Allison are settling in for an evening of smooching when their daughter Eleanor unexpectedly arrives home from college to  introduce her new boyfriend, the intriguingly titled 'naked man Rob'. They are a well settled, professional middle class couple clearly deeply in love and living the dream.

Eleanor is also there to tell biological Mum Allison that she “…wants to meet the other half of my genetic code” and has asked a private investigator to find him. In an instant, Allison’s mood shifts from relaxed to cautious, generating a barrage of off-puts to deflect Eleanor’s hunt for clues about who her dad might be.

Suddenly their happy triangle of love and mutual support looks vulnerable and artificial as the brutal facts of how she was conceived are revealed, who the father was and the horrible truth of the impact of lies and concealment have had on both perpetrator and the victim over two decades.

Several scenes are not easy to watch: emotions are ruthlessly stripped down and assumptions questioned. But it is delivered in fantastic quick-witted dialogue (although some West Coast “you are an amazing person” psychobabble might grate on north London ears).

Never Not Once

Never Not Once - Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

The acting is outstanding: Amanda Bright (Nadine)and Gilbert Kyem Jnr (Rob) draw their characters exactly right. Meaghan Martin as Eleanor delivers her transition from carefree student to a young woman questioning everything about her parents and herself with much maturity and insight. And the intense hurt in the raw performances of Flora Montgomery and Adrian Grove (as the pathetic Doug) are intense and memorable. Thought provoking and challenging.

Flora Montgomery, Meaghan Martin and Amanda Bright

Flora Montgomery, Meaghan Martin and Amanda Bright - Credit: Gemma Turnbull