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After All These Years (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: After All These Years

Society: London (professional shows)

Venue: Jermyn Street Theatre. 16B Jermyn Street, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6ST


After All These Years

3 stars

Gile’s Cole’s new play, which did well at the Brighton Fringe earlier this year, is an unashamedly traditional comedy of manners with undercurrents. A simple, often funny, four hander it is completely free of gimmickry, special effects, role doubling and fancy sound tracks. Brecht, Pinter and Berkoff are not in the room. And that’s all rather refreshing. Yes, you can still have a perfectly decent, entertaining evening in the theatre without overworked, fashionable “innovation.”

Two couples – all with a background in show business – are now retired, or semi-retired, but restless. The symmetry (another thing I quite liked) of Cole’s play gives us a scene with the two men, one with the two women and ends with them all together, two years later.

The opening scene with Graham Pountney, who also directs, as Charlie and Jeffrey Holland as Alfred is beautifully written and paced.  Two old mates are in a pub, as they are daily, chatting inconsequentially. Both actors use silence beautifully and Pountney speaks volumes just by crossing and uncrossing his legs. Holland does wonderful things with his face. Gradually we learn about their marriages and the tensions between the four of them.

The second scene with the two women Joan (Judy Buxton) and Marianne (Carol Ball) feels slightly more forced and less convincingly natural as it works towards some unexpected revelations. The final scene, however, which establishes that there are going to be major changes in future is pretty lively. Ball eventually finds a tender, delicate warmth in her character and Buxton gets spark into the idea that Joan isn’t quite what she’d always seemed – her Alfred has become very tedious after all.

In many ways it’s Holland’s Alfred who stands out in this show. He forgets words all the time and then, during the two year “gap”, has a mild stroke. The resulting slight speech defect and balance issues are immaculately well observed. And we end up sympathising more with him than anyone else.

First published by Sardines

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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