AfterlifeOvertime at the White Bear Theatre

That there is an afterlife at all can be a frightening thing to think about – I take the view that if indeed there is another form of existence after one has popped their clogs, it’s presumably a superior experience to living on Earth. After all, very few come back. Here, a woman (Maayan Amiran) has died but as she is still very much capable of thought and movement, she has to be told by Cyril (Tom Kane) that she is in fact (as it were) dead. Quite why she has entered into this particular part of the underworld becomes clear in the narrative – let’s just say there are both personal and professional reasons.

AfterlifeOvertime. Credit Genexus Photography.
AfterlifeOvertime. Credit Genexus Photography.

The opening scene is discombobulating, with a wide range of thoughts spouting forth from the woman, named only (and in the programme, rather than on stage) as E – whatever happened to A, B, C and D isn’t explained. Some of her outspoken ramblings become aggressive, to the point where I can’t help but draw a comparison between her and those people who shout nonsense on the streets of central London. It’s unclear whether she should be referred for psychiatric treatment, and Cyril’s repeated appeals for calm have limited effect.

Elements of fantasy in the storyline mean there’s a need to accept the narrative for what it is, especially when Cyril starts explaining different types of afterlife forms. There isn’t anything about what happens, for instance, to someone’s beloved pet dog, or if it would be possible to trace one’s ancestors and meet them (with consent, of course). An underworld recruiter’s (Katie Georgiou) actual paperless office setup is a mechanism to invite E to verbally go through her career history, such that the audience hears it at the same time as the recruiter. I found some of the buzzwords and vocabulary quite ridiculous: what exactly does an ‘executive creative director’ do? It’s a bit like calling someone who fills shelves in a department store a ‘replenishment partner’. Fair play to the recruiter for going along with it and continuing to express interest.

Euan J Davies’ lighting design works well, particularly in the first scene, with a range of subtle and not-so-subtle changes to reflect the ever-changing state of E’s mind. Later, E talks about strategies to satisfy consumer demand. The play restrains itself from preaching an outright anti-capitalist agenda but appears to suggest there must be a better way of doing things without seeing people with metaphorical pound signs above their heads. At other times, however, the show becomes so absurdist I must admit I had little, if any, idea as to what precisely was going on.

This is, apparently, only one story among several about the underworld, and it may well take (at least) a couple more to grasp more fully what it’s all about and what takeaway messages there are: this play on its own feels incomplete, with the lights coming up after the curtain call when it felt like they should have come up for the interval (it’s one of those, one-act, no-interval productions). But I liked how every piece of set and props had a purpose, and the cast were clearly committed to an intriguing if somewhat baffling show.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

A weathered, cynical advertising executive finds herself trapped in a strange, unfeeling world.

That is, until she meets a benevolent cab-driving ferryman by the name of Cyril.

As she journeys through, this executive discovers the scope of a new realm and the depths of a new potential. The Liminal is waiting.

Please note this performance contains mentions of Death & Loss and strobe Lighting effects

A​fterlifeOvertime
Written by Tom Kane
9th – 13th May 2023
https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/

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