At first glance, the set is relatively simple. Wooden chairs and furniture jumbled together surrounding a small platform with an artistically rustic effect. I’ll admit, I was sceptical that a play could hope to successfully recreate the vivid yet complex synopsis emblazoned on every hosting theatre’s website without the CGI of a film, or the imagination of a reader at their disposal. But incredibly, throughout the two hours, the stage became a home, a barn, a hospital ward, even a sky – all without me having to stretch my mind to believe what the characters were seeing. No: I could see it perfectly.
As his childhood home is flooding and falling down around him, fifteen-year-old Noble grapples with abandonment, isolation and his mother. A troubled, social outcast, he meets quirky new boy Ellis and as several unexpected events force them together, resentment blossoms into a tentative, yet undeniable friendship. Alongside this, Paddy Stafford and Alexandra Mathie effortlessly paint a strikingly real depiction of the tumultuous relationship of a mother and teenage son. Laid bare, the main storyline is nothing original, but as Wirral writer Billie Collins layers it with beautiful metaphors and an exquisitely lyrical script it becomes more of a poem than a play.
Covering many sombre themes from loss to climate change and containing some bad language, Too Much World At Once is best enjoyed by a slightly older audience. However, whilst it may seem at first a gloomy and sobering watch, for actor Paddy Stafford it is actually a tale of hope. ‘We have friends where we don’t expect them, and family closer than we think’. He is absolutely right and I think Billie Collins reflects that beautifully.
Described by Stafford as ‘honest, hopeful and urgent’, this ingenious play manages to create real people, lives and new worlds with nothing but a simple set, several props and four naturally talented actors. Dramatically exceeding my expectations, Too Much World At Once is a poignant yet underrated triumph of theatre.