Giles Cole describes his play as a ‘comedy-drama’ which has “grown organically from a ten-minute piece written for a play competition“. Unlike many plays which have been extended this one deserves to have been as the writing improves as the play progresses.
Relationships can be a delicate balance of hope, desire, memory and regret, especially when two long-married couples THINK they know all there is to know about each other…
Of the three half-hour scenes that comprise the piece, the second appears the most tautly written and effective, but this may be due to the convincing acting of Judy Buxton (Joan) and Carol Ball (Marianne). Buxton especially gives a master class on how to extract everything possible (and more) from a script and make the writing appear stronger than it actually is. The way she uses her hands is fascinating: they let us know what she is thinking especially when she is not being totally honest and they effortlessly explain much of the motivation of her character: each slight move of her fingers has been clearly thought through yet appears totally natural. In addition, the way she uses the words that Cole has given her draws us into the duologue she is having with Marianne – all is never what it seems in this scene!
Carol Ball is a wonderful foil to Buxton, especially in the way she uses her face, again totally natural but allowing us to see her inner feelings even when she is saying something totally different. The two make a wonderful double act, often amusing, frequently poignant, occasionally shocking!
Jeffrey Holland (Alfred ) and Graham Pountney (Charlie), the two husbands, are equally good but their characters appear more stereotyped owing to the writing, and their first act duologue is very static. Again they spar very effectively with each other and are very believable as friends of long standing. Holland especially, has some most effective moments of stillness.
This is an unashamedly old-fashioned play, amusing yet with some surprising twists and turns. Perhaps the highest compliment I can make is to say that we are gradually drawn into the lives and back stories of Cole’s protagonists and are willing for a ‘happy ending’.
After All These Years has been expertly directed by Graham Pountney, with a sense for the rhythm of the piece as well as style, allowing the actors to make the most of what they have been given, and the unnamed set designer and ‘lighting associate‘ Sandra Szaron must also be credited for their contribution.
It is a shame that the title is not more ‘catchy’ and memorable, but, that caveat aside, this is a most enjoyable evening at the comfortable seventy-seater Tabard Theatre and very recommendable to those looking for a cosy evening at the theatre. But if you go, and I hope you will, do look at Judy Buxton’s hands – if only all actors had such fluid meaningful gestures!
Review by John Groves
Relationships can be a delicate balance of hope, desire, memory and regret, especially when two former showbiz couples think they know all there is to know about each other. But what secrets are silently waiting for their cue, ready to change the course of the couple’s lives forever?
After All These Years stars Jeffrey Holland (Hi-De-Hi!, You Rang M’Lord?), Judy Buxton (Lovejoy, Rising Damp, On The Up), Carol Ball (The Bill, The Trip) and Graham Pountney (Angels, Peak Practice, Doctors). This production premiered at the Brighton Fringe Festival 2023 where it won the Outstanding Theatre Award. It then transferred to the Quay Arts Centre, Newport, Isle of Wight and then to Jermyn Street Theatre.
After All These Years
by Giles Cole
7th February – 24th February 2024