When a relationship is stripped of its giddy, golden beginnings, when two people are left with little hope, left to fend for themselves in a life working against them, do they grow stronger or does it tear them apart? ‘Every Second’ is brutal and funny and raw. It is confronting and honest and despite the many opportunities, movement director Samantha Chester ensures that it never becomes crass or uncomfortable. It follows the story of two couples, Jen/Bill and Meg/Tim, struggling with infertility, desperately trying to have children. It examines the pressures of relationships, tested by stress and exhaustion and explores what is left when love is gone.
Director Shannon Murphy emphasises the parallels Bates draws between beautiful, manmade lakes and the process of procreation. The wonderful spiraling set (designed by Andy McDonnell) is at the heart of the action, the characters winding down the tracks up and down, as their relationship shift and their hopes of having children decline/improve.
The tone of the play fluctuates between lighthearted comedy and moments of utter disappointment. Glenn Hazeldine as Bill shows us the funny side of infertility. He is always sincere but his poor judgment of appropriateness makes for a good laugh. Hazeldine is partnered well with Georgina Symes as Jen, who stands her ground as a strong but sensitive woman.
Meg (Julia Ohanessian) and Tim (Simon Corfield) are the younger couple of the two. Their lives are dictated by a strict schedule and defined by new age and eastern medicinal practise. The absurdity of the issue comes to light in some of the funniest scenes in the play – going by the schedule even if that means doing it in public, giving sperm the best chance by using fresh egg white lubricant (which Meg always carries with her) and Tim’s constant inability to finish because of a reminder that his “mother called earlier”.
The pair play well together, but individually they are just as talented. Ohanessian’s performance as Meg is breathtaking. She is able to play upon the eastern suburbs herbal tea enthusiast stereotype that Bates has satirized in her writing and then at other times she makes us cry – moving us with beautifully delivered monologues.
The writing keeps us in balance – it allows us time to sympathise with the characters and gives us room to giggle at their misfortunes too, otherwise we are left with a fairly depressing storyline. Bates brings it all to a climax in a hilarious scene of synchronized sperm swimming, a reference to Bates’ line about procreation being “like a ballet”. The scene comprises of all four actors dressed in crisp white suits, limbering up and preparing for the race – only to turn on each other in viscous slow motion combat, leaving one lone victor.
These moments were good fun, but of course were countered by the unforeseeable dramas that life is dotted with. Infertility meets infidelity but then things start to look up before we realise they’re only good for so long. The play ends where it began, in the park, staring at the “beautiful”, “manmade” lake – atop the spiral set, perhaps symbolic of the womb that has brought joy for one couple and heartbreak for another. It seems unsatisfying, confusing and frustrating that it should end with such a blasé tone. But that’s life, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and then sometimes it just keeps going.