After What Comes Before is a Dr. Strangelove of shows: odd and manic but seriously amusing for those in on the joke. This mad scientist tour de force features frenetic physical comedy, lightning-fast wordplay and expert sleight of hand. The plot and the science don’t stand up under close inspection, but it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the utter weirdness. While some of the sight gags are too drawn out and the daring verbal stunt-pilots occasionally crash and burn, this show is not to be missed.
The show is set in a laboratory located nowhere near reality. As the audience enters, the Psychotherapist (if the characters had names, I didn’t catch them) sits brooding atop a box. The Physicist and the Neurosurgeon later emerge from the same box, like rabbits popping out of a magician’s hat. After What Comes Before boasts an extremely clever set, with multiple panels and small doors which are rotated and opened to reveal props and actors. Closet mad scientists will drool over the small, detailed decorations of hand-drawn neurons, atoms, and the like.
The acting and the characters are far from naturalistic and are even a little frightening, but once you’ve gotten used to this the whole affair is good fun. The Psychotherapist, your bog-standard evil scientist with a permanently furled brow and madness in his eyes, has a plan. He wants to build a machine that can balance and extract people’s unbalanced thoughts and turn them into normal, productive citizens. To do this, he needs to the help of the Physicist, a deranged little leprechaun of a man. They are joined by the Neurosurgeon, a dreamy man given to sudden flights of verbal fancy. He appeared to have just woken up from a nap and wandered out of an episode of Brideshead Revisited.
These mad scientists who plot to make the world sane eventually succeed in building their machine. They then decide to test it on one of the trio; I won’t divulge what happens, although I will say that the ending was rather abrupt. Sometimes the characters’ repeated verbal tics got tiring and some of the physical humour, particularly a bit involving some glue, was prolonged more than was necessary or funny. The show’s strength lay in the actors’ sleight of hand. All of the magic tricks were seamlessly incorporated and faultlessly executed. “Would you like some homemade lemonade?” asks the Psychotherapist and a bottle appears in his hand. A rubber fish also made a surprise appearance during a “mental stimulation” sequence, among a plethora of other objects.
If you appreciate energetic comedy, a good barrage of science-related words, and some artfully deployed rubber fish, do head over the Greenside and catch these three mad scientists performing this demanding and delightful piece.