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Before After | Southwark Playhouse

Before After, directed by Georgie Rankcom with music and lyrics by Stuart Matthew Price, took to the stage at Southwark Playhouse during the tumultuous year of 2020, offering a much-needed escape for theatre enthusiasts through a special streamed performance. Making its return, this musical rom-com revolves around a 'meet cute' premise – boy meets girl on a scenic hill overlooking a city. However, the twist lies in the fact that while she recognises him, he is grappling with amnesia due to an accident. As the title suggest, the narrative unfolds in two timelines - 'before' and 'after,' projected against a minimal set.


Jacob Fowler, fresh from his role as JD in the recent Heathers UK tour, shines as Ben. His delicate and tender vocals together with his comedic timing proves impeccable. Fowler effortlessly exudes charm and relatability, captivating the audience from the start. Opposite him, Grace Mouat portrays Ami with depth and finesse, turning what could be a one-dimensional character into a genuinely complex and human figure. Mouat's commanding voice and distinct presence elevate her performance, creating a magnetic chemistry with Fowler that becomes the heartbeat of the show. The success of Before After can be attributed significantly to the delicious chemistry between its two leads. The romantic storyline, though predictable in its rom-com formula, manages to engage the audience in the couple's journey, creating an eagerness to witness their trials, tribulations, and eventual happy ending.


Yimei Zhao's minimal set design, featuring empty picture frames in the background and a handful of simple props, allows the performers, music, and lyrics to take centre stage. The simplicity of the set enhances the focus on the actors and the emotional nuances of the narrative. Accompanying the production, a threepiece band, led by musical director Ben McQuig, provide live music. Price's piano-led score displays a pleasing range of textures, riffs and a sophisticated sonic palette, although it tends to lack memorability. The lyrics, crafted by Price and Timothy Knapman, carry meaning and some emotional weight with a touch of cliché.


However, the weakest link in Before After lies in its book, with some noticeable dramaturgical gaps and lacks an emotional pull. Certain scenes tend to linger, making the 90-minute piece feel slightly tedious. Despite its sweet and charming overall story, it lacks emotional satisfaction, with the resolution feels somewhat unearned.


Nonetheless, the delight of witnessing the outstanding performances from Fowler and Mouat makes Before After a worthwhile experience. This charming and heart-warming love story makes it a perfect choice for a date night, especially on Valentine's Day, or for anyone seeking the comfort of a well-executed romantic comedy. While the musical itself might not sweep you off your feet, the duo on stage will most definitely steal your heart.


Before After plays at Southwark Playhouse Borough (The Little) until 2nd March. For more information and tickets follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Danny Kaan


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