Eve greets us warmly but nervously, before leaving and re-entering to begin her play. And it’s a play that poses a lot of questions. Questions like: why is she able to see us, the audience, sitting round the edges of her living room? Why is she talking into an unplugged microphone? What’s with those occasional forays into lip-sync music? And why is her phone ringing all the time?
There’s actually something very clever and high-concept going on here. The trouble is that, without any signal that things aren’t quite as they appear, it’s easy to misinterpret the first half of the play as a themeless miscellany. By the time I’d realised that I needed to re-assess a lot of what I’d seen, it was a little too late to connect with it; there were details I didn’t remember, parallels and metaphors I’m certain I’d missed.
And that’s a shame, because the story is absolutely one worth telling. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that Eve is struggling to accept a loss, one that’s hinted at in the early scenes but explained with terrible clarity later on. As so often when we’re grieving, particular memories adopt an almost religious significance; it’s unclear how Eve will ever let go, or even if it’s really right to.
Eve is autistic, she tells us, using a clever and witty video-game metaphor to explain how stressful she finds some aspects of daily life. But this isn’t a play “about” autism: it’s a heightened take on a common life experience, albeit viewed through a slightly different lens. I feel I could have learned more if that diversity had been addressed more explicitly, much as it was in that video-game scene, but I also respect the choice not to put it front and centre and to allow Eve’s narrative to tell its own tale.
Plays with a big reveal are hard to pull off, because the “before” and “after” stories both have to draw the audience in. I don’t think Everyone’s Worried About Eve quite manages that double. But the script is funny at times and heart-wrenching at others, the twist is clever, and there’s real wisdom in the final monologue.