All of Us review – Francesca Martinez’s urgent call for radical empathy

Dorfman theatre, London
Personal, political and polemical, this intensely moving play about disability and austerity challenges preconceptions

As Francesca Martinez’s urgent, funny and intensely moving play begins, two women – one with cerebral palsy (“I prefer ‘wobbly’”), the other able-bodied – arrive for a therapy session. We might assume the disabled woman is the patient but in the first of many reversals of expectation, it’s not so. Jess (Martinez) is the compassionate therapist … yet she can’t follow her own advice and expose her fury, need and vulnerability.

Personal, political, even polemical, All of Us was programmed before lockdown, but the pandemic has only sharpened the cruelties of austerity. Care provision shrinks, support is abandoned. There’s much to be angry about, but Jess keeps a lid on emotion. Both the physical and emotional labour of Martinez’s performance are striking. “Let out the wobbly rage!” her neighbour urges, but it doesn’t readily emerge. She maintains that everything is fine, even when left half-dressed while the lights go out.

Georgia Lowe’s raspberry-carpeted stage includes a central revolve and this play makes us consider people from every angle. Under Ian Rickson’s precise yet delicate direction, they reveal their dimensions: particularly Bryan D***’s recalcitrant, lacerating patient, and [...]

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