Back Row Writing: Review of Every Beautiful Thing

Back Row Writing is a new section of the Telegraph where we publish the opinions and views of theatre lovers. Some of them are in the industry, some are friends, some are audience members, all have ideas they want to share. For more on why we started this platform, see Finding the Voices.

Every Beautiful Thing

Review by Daniella Conibear

Every Beautiful Thing is a powerful and uneasily familiar narrative carved out of a dialogue between two sisters who find themselves confronting both each other and themselves.

Set in the sterile confines of a hospital room, the siblings are trapped in a collision conversation that the audience feels they must have had before. The dialogue is an eerie mix of the all too recognisable and something you feel, at times, repentant for overhearing. Throughout their time on stage both characters illuminate the complexity of familial bonds – both the ones we cling to and the ones we run from.

Written by Jon Keevy, performed by Briony Horwitz and Jazzara Jaslyn and directed by Tara Notcutt, Every Beautiful Thing, reminds us from the outset that the human being is more important than the situation.

Jon Keevy’s wit and profound articulation of the conscious entanglement of all that is unsettling, sees both characters challenging and comforting themselves and the audience. Through this the cornerstones of family relationships, things that are often side-stepped with trepidation, are illuminated.

Both Briony Horwitz and Jazzara Jaslyn embody their characters with precision. This is highlighted by Tara Notcutt’s renowned inventiveness for making the ordinary, that which we walk past everyday, instrumental to the performance. In her interview for Alexander’s Telegraph, Notcutt was asked, ‘What excites you about theatre?’ Her response epitomises the atmosphere of Every Beautiful Thing: ‘The possibility for empathy between people. The possibility of seeing something in a way you didn’t see it before.’

Susan (played by Horwitz) is the oldest sister, burdened by her identity as the adopted  child. She is a chaotic mix of ambition and self-doubt. Katelyn (played by Jaslyn), her younger sister, is the miracle baby and even in her adult years is stuck between melodrama and boredom.

The set of the dialogue is constant, one sister is there, theoretically out of choice, concern, guilt. The other, finds herself in a hospital bed after a car accident. The explanatory circumstances for all this unfold relatively early on, however while the explanations are everyday, they blindside you with the weight and catechism that families perpetuate.

We see the ease and moral superiority of the eldest sister, Susan fiercely juxtaposed with the glamour and the hysteria of the youngest sister, Katelyn, the one who demands love – and gets it. This play is however, about dialogue and the space that it occupies; it reminds us that these bonds of blood and something else are not straight lines, ones that we travel from one point to another. Rather, Every Beautiful Thing aptly captures the way that siblings have the ability to trap you into a self-fulfilling identity that can both doom and save you – often simultaneously.

This is a play that needs to be seen, and more, to be understood; one that holds a mirror up to oneself – even when it is not pretty.