Afterglow by writer and director S. Asher Gelman involves us in a world of sensuality, love and loss, it was a show which roped me in right from the start. Afterglow follows the entangled story of Josh and Alex, a married couple, and Darius, the third person in their open relationship. What begins as a casual(ish) one night stand between the three, stems into a deeper relationship between Josh and Darius, testing the limits between Alex and Josh.
Before I even get to the play’s content, I have to mention the stunning set design by Ann Beyersdorfer. The beautiful set transformed Southwark Playhouse’s stage and kept bringing surprise after surprise, like peeling back layers of disguise. It was phenomenal. I don’t want to spoil too much of the intriguing and complex set, but at times I was asking myself ‘How is this possible?’ The production was so polished and cinematic because of the set. It was so gorgeously rich and I was obsessed with its intricacies.
The script by Gelman was wonderfully constructed, it had real authenticity to it and this worked brilliantly to draw the audience in. I particularly loved the way Gelman assembled the high-tension scenes. Gelmen plucked and dropped tension like a guitar string which built a beautiful melody of ebbs and flows creating a wonderfully tense but still delectable atmosphere. I enjoyed watching the audience gasp and shuffle to the edge of their seats as the climax of the show rose. Gelman has the talent of a brilliant writer alongside a keen directorial eye to bring his vision to life.
If it’s not clear, I loved the high-drama ‘conflict scenes. However, I personally found the emotive scenes, particularly those towards the end, a little impassive. Whilst I subscribed so wholly to the love and story between Alex, Josh and Darius, I thought Josh’s ending felt obvious. His character hit such highs that his impending low was bound to happen. However, I do love how many questions the ending left with me. I thought about what could have happened next for days.
Actors Peter McPherson (Josh), James Nicholson (Darius) and Victor Hugo (Alex) brought great energy to the show. Afterglow, I can imagine is a particularly vulnerable show to be a part of, for a number of reasons, and I think the cast threw themselves into that. It is clear they have great chemistry on and off stage and I enjoyed being a part of the intimacy they created with each other. Intimacy aided by direction from Lee Crowley, which I am so glad to see the production had on board, I think having an intimacy director plays a huge part in the safety of actors and the enjoyment for the audience. Hugo in particular had an incredible command of the stage and brought a great side to the potentially problematic character of Alex. I was very interested in learning more about Alex, how he met Josh, and how he fell in love with him in the first place.
Overall, Afterglow was a wonderfully curated show. I believe any show that challenges our set perceptions about love and relationships is worth doing, and Afterglow did it incredibly.
Recommended Drink: A glass of expensive champagne so you can toast to love and loss with Alex, Josh and Darius.
Performances of Afterglow are at the Southwark Playhouse till February 10th 2024. Tickets are available through the Southwark Playhouse Box Office.