top of page

Afterglow | Southwark Playhouse

Afterglow is a glorious exploration into open relationships. Written, directed and choreographed by S. Asher Gelman, the show follows the open relationship between married couple Alex (Victor Hugo) and Josh (Peter McPherson), and 24 year old Darius (James Nicholson). Delving into these dynamics, subsequent relationships, connections and consequences of open relationships, the show plays out beautifully with the parallelism.  

Alex and Josh are on the brink of having a baby together, but this is challenged by Josh's ever growing feelings for Darius, which eventually results in unexpected revelations. Each character is fully developed, and the audience are stretched in hoping all three of them remain happy. The show starts with the three characters entangled together in bed, completely naked. It's a bold start to the show yet instantly establishes the tone of the show. By presenting the characters and story in such a way, the audience understand and accept the normalcy of this arrangement, and in a rather effective way. In both the use of this shocking start and the raw emotions that the characters feel, the show ensures that such vulnerability has never been seen before on stage. 

Despite the frequent and heavy use of nudity in the show, the actual vulnerability comes from the open and honest conversations between characters, no matter how tough they are. With Alex needing space, Josh needing more sex, and Darius being afraid of commitment, they lead to larger and deeper conversations. It's refreshing to see the writing incorporate good communication between characters, despite the dramatic outcomes, and how the love shared never suffers as a result. The moments of silent movement between the characters are incredibly powerful with storytelling flowing so well in these moments, often revealing the heart's truest desires.

The lighting (Jamie Roderick) accompanies this and these moments of visual mastery speak volumes. They are truly moments of visual storytelling that will take your breath away. Whilst the story is engaging and there is a clear narrative throughout, the plot lacks a little in the latter half, falling prey to cliches and hasty decisions, resulting in repetitions of conversations. However the performances are so brilliant that we're swept away in the drama and this doesn't forsake the play in the slightest. 

The staging (Ann Beyersdorfer) is quite innovative, with multiple chairs doubling into a massage table, a bed and dining table. Contained neatly within a lit up frame that is retracted when unnecessary, the furnishings can create different locations. The stage has also been adapted to incorporate water falling from above to a crate at centre stage, allowing for the characters to shower whilst on stage. The lighting design (Jamie Roderick) is exquisite and truly deserves to win awards. Whether it's the warm yellow glow of industrial bulbs hung around the stage, or the white starry lights within the stage, the effect is dazzling and mesmerising. Using reflection, the starry effect immerses the characters, creating a limitless space for them to exist in, which is utilised in a particularly important scene. 

Afterglow is a brave piece of theatre that will leave you in tears. A truly stunning play that is complex, chaotic, beautiful and utterly human, completed by an incredibly talented cast. Afterglow is currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 11th February - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by The Other Richard


bottom of page