Everything Must Go
by Patrick Jones
A review by Martin Chapman
Originally published in April 1999
in Socialist Review

Every once in a while a play is written which captures the mood of a generation, challenges both the past and the present and stops the viewing public dead in their tracks. Everything Must Go is such a play.

The play has received rave reviews, and quite rightly. It demonstrates that a play with an overtly socialist message can also be a first class work of art. Everything Must Go is centred around the experience of working class youth in the valleys of south Wales. The bulk of its audience recently in Cardiff were young people, who gave standing ovations each night. The play explores the reasons why so many young people turn to car crime, robbery and drugs, and it pins the blame firmly on capitalism and the fact that people are alienated under capitalist society.

Not only is 'alienation' discussed in the play, but the concept is extended from the common usage of the word to being explicitly connected to the world of work in the valleys today. Throughout the play images of conveyor belt production lines as associated with the new electronic industries were used, showing workers as bits of the machine.
The backdrop to the play is the music of the now hugely popular Welsh bands such as Catatonia, Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers. Indeed, the lyrics and song titles from the Manics, which are central to the play, were written by Patrick Jones's brother, Nicky Wire.

Some people have been upset by the play's use of strong language. But its use is anything but gratuitous. It is purposely placed there and discussed in the play itself. It is constantly juxtaposed to the lyrics of various modern songs, to poetry and more importantly to the speeches of Nye Bevan: 'Nye Bevan was a good man--he cared. He said of the young men going off to fight the fascists, "Some people had better watch out because one day they might decide to fight the fascists here too." Nye Bevan had a dream. What have we done to that dream?'

It would be a great mistake to see this play as a glorification of Welshness. To Catatonia's Welsh song', 'International Velvet', a scene showed how the praising of all things Welsh was just another way of disguising and deflecting from the grim reality of everyday life. In style, however, the play does employ many techniques associated with the best traditions of art and culture emanating from Wales.

The play is very hard on New Labour even after the script was toned down for this production.
Finally, the actors in the play, many of whom were students from the College of Music and Drama, were interviewed for a Welsh television programme. Comparisons were made to the works of William Shakespeare, in that on paper what seems like difficult prose comes alive when performed. This play certainly came alive, and it can only be hoped that it will tour.

Martin Chapman