Set in an apocalyptical world, After feels like a theatrical experiment on many levels. This is how the first production meeting may have gone: 'OK, there’s one script but it’s only half an hour long. So how do we make it longer? We do it twice!' Genius.
After feels like a theatrical experiment on many levels
So the experiment starts with this one short script being given to two different directors (Dodger Phillips for the first half, Rikki Tarascas for the second half) and four different actors: one mother/daughter and one father/son combo. This shouldn’t, but obviously does, draw the audience into comparisons between the two versions and thankfully there was no stand out as both sets of performances had their own merits.
The second production meeting possibly went like this: 'OK, we have the Speigeltent and it’s a big space plus we’ve got it for an hour and a half. Let’s put a band on as well!' Genius.
Music is usually used as a transition between scenes or to cover up complicated scene changes, neither of which happen in After. There are no complicated scene changes, the furniture doesn’t move. There is hardly any furniture, there’s just a band. And the band plays for what seems like an awfully long time. The music is good, but the musicians are hidden behind a semi-see through screen on which images are projected. I kept hoping the screen would fall away to reveal Bob Dylan in a wig trying out some new material but it didn’t. I don’t think I was alone in thinking what was the point?
The point of the music could have been what (may have) happened in the third production meeting. 'OK, let’s make this a multi-media multi-skilled piece. Let’s have puppets!' Genius.
So the music plays whilst black-clad puppeteers manoeuvre cute, fluffy, jumping bunnies around during the first piece. Syreeta Kumar is stunning as a mother struggling to cope with both her stroppy daughter, modestly played by Echo Phillips, and living in this harsh post-apocalyptical world.
During the second piece, Tom Dussek brings a different feel to his father figure injecting the piece with some much-needed humour, but is equally excellent. The absolute star of the show is his young (actual) son Dan Dussek, parading around in a blood stained rabbit jump suit and managing to convey innocence with a sense of danger combined. Just to warn any animal lovers out there - the rabbits are not pets.
It’s the puppetry of the second piece that could have caused mass hysteria, as two severed rabbit heads with evil red eyes are paraded in front of the audience whilst the secret band plays. It’s obviously deep meaning was completely lost on this heathen.
Without the pointless band, without the weird rabbits, After would have been an fascinating theatrical experiment: a thought-provoking script, written by Craig Jordan Phillips, with some seriously great acting. With all the other things happening it just felt a bit odd.
Like the Emperor’s New Clothes, if one person started laughing, then it would have given everyone cause to, but on this occasion the King managed to get away with being naked and nobody said a word.