A well-written play can have the power to transport you from your tawdry, hum-drum existence, drawing you in and creating worlds which are perhaps new to you, and through the eyes and experiences of the characters on stage, insightfully explore elements of the human condition.
We’ve been lucky in London recently in having both The Lehman Trilogy – at the time of writing still running at The Piccadilly Theatre and The Inheritance – which is about to open on Broadway. Both are marathon theatrical experiences, the former running to over three hours, and split into three acts, the latter running to nearly twice that.
And yet the time spent experiencing each seems to fly by.
Afterglow, which has just opened at Southwark Playhouse’s large house, runs to barely 85 minutes with no interval, and yet seems to last for hours…
Spoiler alert. Don’t read on if you intend to see this play (or are easily offended).
The play is set in New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York, and concerns a beautiful, fit, entitled, married, successful, gay couple in their mid-thirties in an open relationship who have a threesome with an internet pick-up ten years their junior.
One of the beautiful, fit, entitled, married, successful guys – the perennially priapic and apparently big-dicked ‘top’ – sees the twenty-something for a one-on-one, which turns into a relationship, and falls in love with him, and in a gesture which is not at all transactional, pays his rent to stop him having to move away.
Needless to say, when the beautiful, fit, entitled, married, successful guy’s beautiful, fit, entitled, married, successful husband finds out, he’s rather more than cheesed off, as the two of them are in love, and… well, you get the gist.
Beautiful, fit, entitled, married, successful big-dick guy in trying to have everything over-reaches himself, and loses what he already had.
Ibsen it ain’t. Truth to tell, it’s barely Hollyoaks.
And here I will digress slightly. I went to the reading of a new musical last night about Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in the UK (for shooting her abusive lover). Lots of nice things about it, but at the critical moment they got it wrong.
They had Ruth shoot her husband, then sing about it. Epic fail in dramatic terms. To build tension and thereby draw the audience in, she needed to point the gun, and sing for three minutes BEFORE shooting him.
The reason for the digression…Well, the play opens with the threesome well under way, and all three actors gamely undertake what can only be described as gratuitous nudity (no wonder I only count 5 women in the sold-out audience, and the bar was out of Sauvignon Blanc).
In fact, that’s really the high-point of the show, and everything thereafter is a bit of an anti-climax. Or should that be Anti Climax…as the writing descends fairly swiftly from soft porn to melodrama.
The set probably looked good on paper, and when actually ‘set’ was OK, however it took up to a minute to change each time, and for some reason the theatre left it all to the actors to literally move the furniture. It appeared cheap. And I have to admit, as my mind started to wander, I had serious doubts that given the size and central location of it, you would actually be able to successfully get the audience out in the auditorium in the event of a fire.
No doubt Southwark Council’s Fire Department have inspected and given in a green light, but it was just another of those things which made me wish I’d spent the evening elsewhere.