“This is a show about value”, Haley McGee declares halfway through her one-woman show.
Inspired by a conversation with Visa about her credit card debt, The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale proffers up eight gifts from McGee’s past relationships – from a seemingly incidental t-shirt to a beautiful, barely-touched guitar.
McGee (with the help of mathematician Melanie Phillips) is trying to find the value of these items. Could the quality of the sex had in the relationship bump up the value? What about the amount of fights they had? Or how much McGee cried during their relationship?
It’s a wry, knowingly playful premise, and one which McGee carries through easily. Ranging from deadpan to devastated in the span of a single sentence, she is a ridiculously watchable and charismatic presence. She’s a conductor – acutely aware of the audience’s ebbs and flows, she knows exactly how to work us. Her writing too has a deftness of touch, so much so that you can barely feel the cogs turning as the piece becomes more self-reflexive, musing on the process and value of autobiographical art.
Mitchell Cushman’s direction feels tight and cohesive, and Anna Reid’s set design is surely the second character of the show – a constantly surprising and delightful debris-littered stage that utilises every nook and cranny of the space.
It’s a fascinating idea – how can we quantify those things which surely cannot be quantified – emotion, pain, love? The premise could have overwhelmed the piece as a whole – but it’s to McGee’s enormous testament that this is as joyful, funny and excruciating an evening as it is.