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Sydney Fringe Festival: All You Can Carry - Review by Nicole Smith

The best part about Fringe Festivals is all the theatre. Plays by artists that deserve space and without them probably would not get a chance to come to life. Plays that are deeply personal and have voices that deserve to be heard. All You Can Carry by David Allsopp and Karen Pattinson is one of those plays.

All You Can Carry is an easily relatable life story. Ash has ended up in like so many Gen-Xers who suddenly find themselves middle aged and caring for everyone except themselves. Ash has had so many of "those days" and she’s about to erupt. She has a lot on her plate and that plate is handled deftly by Karen Pattinson.

There is a husband (Dan Ferris) who is more interested in heading out with “the guys” and onto the next part of his life as a mamil (middle aged man in lycra) and watching bike tours. Ferris and Pattinson have a great chemistry and made a relationship that felt lived in. Daughter Sass (played by Vanessa Merewether) is more interested in the “bank of mum” and using her as a taxi not seeing what Ash is going through. Then there is the work colleague/best friend Laura (also played by Merewether) who barely takes a breath between talking about herself and herself. Merewether brings an undeniable energy to her performance that reminds us of the "that person" in our lives. Finally, there is Mum, who we never meet but was the most touching relationship. Ash has a mother whose ageing mind and devastating diagnosis is wreaking havoc on their relationship and pushing her to the brink as she questions her own health. All the while running back and forward in a carer role to a person who is slipping away.

The play opens with a busy opening sequence of music and movement, so much said without a word, cleverly directed by Allsop. Incorporating more of these sequences throughout the performance could give us further given us insight into Ash.

As we move into the opening monologue it is evident Pattinson is an engaging performer. From here the writing flowed seamlessly between dialogue and monologue which was a treat. There were times I wanted to see Ash stand and deliver in a moment of stillness so we could take in the world she’s found herself in.

Unfortunately, the festival had scheduled a very noisy show In a neighbouring performance space which to the actors credit did not distract them.

The show didn’t have much room to move in the intimate space housed in the Erskinville Town Hall. Luckily All You Can Carry could be taken and put on anywhere as demonstrated by the great use of a very small stage and limited technical support. Allsop cleverly used the space he has with a simple chair and table and limited props. Simple everyday costuming added to this grounded very real aesthetic. These characters are real, I know them, we all do and at times we are them.

The overarching metaphor was relatable and engaging, the script deftly handled by the ensemble who were very capable in their respective performances. I’d like to see more of the ensemble characters to really flesh out the highs and lows of the relationships and how Ash responds as she ultimately faces the truth and acceptance in moving forward. It really is Pattinson’s show and her passion shines through bringing a wonderful Fringe experience.

3/5 overflowing totebags

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