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Review: Afterglow, Southwark Playhouse - passionate and poignant

Afterglow_011_Victor Hugo_James Nicholson_credit The Other Richard
Victor Hugo and James Nicholson in Afterglow, Southwark Playhouse, Jan 2024. Photo: The Other Richard

Afterglow at the Southwark Playhouse is a modern love story and a modern family story. Married couple Alex (Victor Hugo) and Josh (Peter McPherson) have an open relationship within certain boundaries.

The play opens with them having a steamy threesome with Darius (James Nicholson). Both are taken with the younger man and agree that they can meet up with him alone.

What starts as mostly about sex develops into something more for two of the men.

All this plays out against the backdrop of a soon-to-be expanded family as Alex and Josh are expecting a baby via a surrogate. It adds an extra layer of jeopardy to the relationship as there is more at risk than their marriage.

The staging is fairly simple, with shiny black surfaces that scream bachelor pad or nightclub. Although at one point, it is lit up and glitters beautifully to represent a clear starry sky.

A square framed platform makes up a bed or is dismantled and arranged into seats or a massage table to transport the narrative from apartments to workplaces and bars.

The centre of the stage is also cleared away to make way for a shower. Although how many shower scenes does one play need before it looks like an excuse to merely show off naked male bodies?

There is an inevitability about how smoothly a 'bit of fun' third wheel slots into a relationship. However, the performances are so well crafted that when fun and sex turn to a more complex range of feelings, it really does tug on the heartstrings.

Afterglow raises questions about physical and emotional relationships and how none are simple, straightforward or easy.

It is a play that is passionate, sexy, funny and poignant, and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Please note this play has an audience age restriction. There is also a strict no photography/video policy to protect the actors (the pre-show recorded announcement is very well done). Check the Southwark Playhouse website for details.

Afterglow, Southwark Playhouse

Written and directed by S Asher Gelman

Starring Victor Hugo, Peter McPherson and James Nicholson

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval

Booking until 10 February, for more details and to buy tickets, visit the Southwark Playhouse website

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