Fresh from Hull, 2017 UK City of Culture, Middle Child’s All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is a rock concert infused with theatricality, facing the reality of what happens when you don’t achieve your dreams. Set over three decades, we follow Leah and Chris, two children in Hull who share the same birthday. They both have dreams, aspirations and goals, and both believe that ‘if you work hard enough you can be whatever you want’. But soon, reality hits. And it becomes apparent that they can’t have everything.
“A blood-pumping, head-pounding, spine-tingling thrill ride through the decades”
This is a musical for grown-ups. Not in the sense that it’s rude, or controversial, just in the sense that it’s painfully honest, and in being so, becomes realistically bleak. There’s no rousing show tunes, no romantic ballads and no happy endings: this is real life. But that’s not to say it wallows in sorrow, in fact, quite the opposite. Set in a society fuelled by a passionate lust-for-life, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything maintains an aggressive standpoint against societal constraints, aided by the integral pounding soundtrack acting as an anthem to life. Moments of emotion tinge the story, with a goosebump-inducing instant coming in the opening ten minutes, but Middle Child avoids the trap of sentimentality, refusing to exploit sequences unnecessarily. This is a realistic window into the lives of two contrasting Hull families, internally struggling for remarkably similar reasons.
It’s an undeniably ambitious project. Seven performer-musicians, three decades and a constant score of original music. Oh, and it’s being done in the round. Hence, I am somewhat flabbergasted to report that Middle Child nail every single aspect with relentless energy and cheeky charm. The acting is stunning, complimented by a wonderfully flamboyant and frenetic narrator. The music is spot-on, transitioning between britpop, indie and electro as we move through the decades. And the script-work is superb, capturing the essence of humanity in every single line. All these aspects come together to produce a frequently energetic, occasionally anarchic atmosphere where all the pent-up insecurity and frustration in society is released in a heart-breaking, cathartic concert.
A blood-pumping, head-pounding, spine-tingling thrill ride through the decades, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is an ode to failed aspiration in the most stylish manner. Beautifully bleak with an effortless emotional punch, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is a true highlight of this year’s Fringe.
Roundabout @ Summerhall, 3rd – 27th August (not 14th) 20:45
Image: Josh Moore, Sarah Beth Photo and Tom Arran