Afterplay is a tender, poignant one-act play by Brian Friel, based on a meeting in a small Russian café between two Chekov characters: Andrey, brother of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, and Uncle Vanya’s niece, Sonia. 20 years after their stories were played out on stage, how have their youthful dreams turned out? Over cabbage soup and vodka, all is revealed as the truth and lies unravel.
Earlier this year, Studio Theatre’s production of Afterplay won the Totton Festival of Drama at Hanger Farm Arts Centre in Totton (an Award-winning One Act Play Festival for amateur dramatic groups and part of the All England Theatre Festival). Studio Theatre won the competition by 10 marks (a considerable feat!), as well as claiming the Best Director, Best Actress and Technical Achievement awards. Now they have revived the production and brought it home to their own Studio in Salisbury for two further shows – and it’s easy to see why they were so successful earlier in the summer.
Rachel Fletcher (Sonia) and George Goulding (Andrey) both demonstrate a deep understanding of their characters, revealing subtle yet complex aspects, full of humour, pathos and palpable heartfelt emotions. Very secure with their dialogue, they both show immaculate comic timing, whether fast-paced interjections across each other, scripted pauses and stillness or taking momentary beats to perfectly allow audience laughter to subside so that the next piece of dialogue is clearly heard.
The unnamed (and uncredited) cameo role of the café server should not go unmentioned. Without any spoken words, her facial expressions and gestures convey more meaning than many amateur actors can muster in pages of dialogue! Present on stage for the duration of the play, her focus and quietness when not involved in the action are admirable.
Director Lesley Bates has skilfully overseen a really moving and gentle comedy, full of emotion, exquisite timing and very thoughtful placement. Every moment is beautifully designed and choreographed, and yet appears to be totally natural and effortless through the strength of the performances.
As a short one-act play, there is no change of scenery, but the set perfectly captures the essence of a run-down 1920s Moscow café, enhanced by excellent set dressing, fine attention to prop details, appropriate costumes and refined lighting effects.
There’s one more chance to see Afterplay at the Studio Theatre with a performance at 8pm on Saturday 16 October. If you have a ticket, you are in for a treat.