Southwark Playhouse (venue)
11 June 2019 (released)
14 June 2019
‘Afterglow’ premiered off Broadway in 2017 and was an unexpected hit, extending its initial two month run at The Daveport Theater by a year. It’s no great surprise that there’s an appetite for a play packed with tight abs, full frontal male nudity and for those who admire on stage plumbing, a working shower. Put them together, with a driving house beat and… you get the idea. Nudity aside, plays about married man, for whom being gay is not the issue, are far and few between and this is probably the most refreshing aspect of the show.
Josh ( Sean Hart) and Alex (Danny Mahoney) are mysteriously rich and emotionally intelligent, married couple. Josh is highly energy theatre director with no off switch and a longing to be touched and adored whereas Alex is more reserved and sometimes irritable, doing some sort of clever, science post-grad. Alex wants more space and Josh wants more passion but they are both fully committed to each other and are excited about the imminent birth of their first child (by surrogacy). It’s a familiar dynamic whatever your sexual orientation or means of reproduction. What’s more specific is that they have both been enjoying consensual extra marital sex with one rule – there are no secrets. After a threesome with Darius (Jesse Fox), Josh meets up with him separately at his massage parlour and a relationship develops that threatens to destroy their happiness.
The cast give energetic, committed performances throughout but there is something slightly squeaky clean about the whole feel of the production – maybe it’s the matching perfect bodies, the stylised sexual encounters, or the three characters who never struggle to express exactly what they feel. Whilst the themes are very relevant, the dialogue convincing and the character dynamics familiar, it doesn’t always connect emotionally.
Despite the nudity and the polyamory, this is a very traditional play both in term of character, plot and message. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that everyone gets hurt. Since the dawn of theatre, we’ve been warned that love triangles are doomed to fail. It’s an age old story and an accessible, enjoyable night of theatre.