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
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
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.