After Ever Happily

What ever happened after they lived happily ever after? When Red Riding Hood (not little) is sent to a psychiatric ward and told that she cannot be who she says she is, we realise that stories can develop into something more complicated than the usual fairytale endings might suggest. A lot of the interest of After Ever Happily rests in its ability to play with the registers of psychological realism along with the children’s story, sometimes with humour, sometimes with intrigue but other times simply with tedium.

The acting is a very mixed affair. Hannah Costanzo is simply brilliant as Red Riding Hood thrust into a contemporary setting. She is bitchy, sharp and moody all in equal measure; her foul-mouthed presence onstage is the most electrifying thing about the play. She was an utter delight to watch.

However, the two male performers of the piece do not ever reach the same levels. Adam Jordan Donaldson fares reasonably well as Dr. Piper, Red Riding Hood’s caring and impassioned psychiatrist. In his early scenes he is a good foil, providing a straight-laced, straight-edged approach to his patient. This worked particularly well in a scene where Dr. Piper slowly and fascinatingly strips away the layers of Red Riding Hood’s story, the very fabric of her supposed hallucination. Later on however, when the role demands greater versatility he failed to summon up sufficient energy. The other psychiatrist Jimmy Carter’s Dr. Mann was simply lacklustre. The scenes in which Carter and Donaldson played off each other, including the not quite so dramatic climax, seemed like little more than empty filler.

The big problem however, in this story all about endings, is the ending. This is a thirty five minute show that is advertised as a fifty minute show. Rather predictably, the ending feels more than a little pinched. One or two more scenes could definitely have been added in order to flesh out an ending that was much in need of explanation. Vague details of a dark past suddenly come to light but they are too slight, too teasing to be anywhere near satisfying.

Another annoying aspect, though this time a minor one, is that when the audience walks in we are to be all greeted personally by Dr. Mann who addresses us as the newly arrived Dr. Piper. This sense of a self-reflexive game, of a comparison between Piper’s ultimately questionable point of view and that of the audience, that we are somehow implicated in Piper’s story, was extremely interesting but was never once hinted at in the main body of the play.

And they all lived inconclusively ever after.

Reviews by Rory Mackenzie

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The Blurb

Giant killer? Witch burner? Beast vanquisher? Doctor Piper is faced with the psychological fallout of these far-fetched experiences when challenged with three troubled youths whose fairytales died long ago. ‘Incredibly well performed’ (Journos 2012, ThreeWeeks).