Everyone Is Dead is one of the tensest 70 minutes in theatre I’ve ever experienced.
Ironically staged high up in Bristol Old Vic’s Coopers’ Loft, the play is set in a dark, dingy basement. But the high ceiling, girders and lighting do really make it feel like you’re underground.
The action begins in almost complete darkness, apart from the light of a torch as two women rush into the room. They are clearly scared and running from someone or something.
What transpires is that Kelly, a frightened 17-year-old, and Ashley, a much more confident older woman who picked up Kelly’s father for casual sex at a petrol station only moments before, are surviving a chemical war which is raging outside.
We don’t want to give too much away, as the beauty of this two-hander is how it cleverly reveals what’s going on above ground as the play progresses, but let’s just say it’s pretty grim!
As we hear voices and footsteps above which adds to the tension, Kelly grows increasingly more freaked out as she worries about what has happened to her dad, while Ashley seems much more able to cope with the predicament and hits back with sarcasm and humour.
As the play reaches its conclusion, we find out all is not as it seems with Ashley and the last five minutes is a shocking end which had me on the end of my seat.
This is a brilliant production by Theatre West which is written, produced and performed by an all-woman company. It’s a response to the under representation of women in theatre and the result of a competition for female playwrights.
Florence Espeut-Nickless and Alison Fitzjohn as Kelly and Ashley are superb and there is very little to criticise. It would have been nice though to have seen more of Ashley’s vulnerabilities as a moment where she does let her guard down and reveal the impact of the war on her own family is one of the play’s main highlights.
But all in all, it’s a great and massively thought-provoking production.
Everyone Is Dead is at Bristol Old Vic until 19 October.