Taking stock of past relationships is an important part of ‘moving on’, but it’s easier said than done. In The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale, Haley McGee’s takes this to the ‘next level’, by not only re-examining eight former relationships, but assessing the potential of assigning a monetary value to items that have an emotional connection.
Before the show begins, the audience is asked to make a guess as to how much eight very different items are worth: a T-shirt, a coffee pot, a rucksack, a CD, a typewriter, a necklace, a guitar and a bicycle. These price estimates are then gathered and referred to at different points in the show.
McGee is open about the fact that finding herself in debt was the catalyst for considering selling the various gifts from her boyfriends, which in turn became the foundation for her show. Her candour is what makes this reflective show work and as she navigates her way around memories, feelings and ‘facts’, we intuitively sense that we as human beings are infinitely complex. This being the case, can anything as reductive as a formula be used to quantify human experience?
Factors that contribute to McGee’s formula include time, a ‘Relationship Index’, ‘Narrative Impact’, ‘Cost Of Love’, ‘Bad Shit Happened To Me’ and ‘Wildcard’. But while these ‘abstract values’ give a ‘logical’ rationale for the value of things, we get a ‘human face’ on the past relationships: McGee’s former boyfriends giving their side of the story (often damning themselves in the process), plus McGee herself explaining the emotional connection behind the items’ history.
Ultimately though, what really makes the show is the nuances of past relationships and unpicking the million different things that can drive couples apart. One of the things that McGee discloses is that in devising the show, she had an an epiphany: that each boyfriend she’s had was an unconscious search for the qualities that were missing from her previous relationship. However, finding such qualities doesn’t guarantee the next romance will run smoothly…
So how does one put a value on previous relationships? How much the break-up hurt, then and now? The quality of the sex? The percentage of the ‘good times’ versus the arguments? All pertinent questions and certainly ones that the audience will be asking themselves.
© Michael Davis 2018
The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale runs at Camden People’s Theatre until 8th December.