Friday, 25 June 2004

Afterplay by Brian Friel, June 25, 2004

Afterplay  by Brian Friel
Stable Productions
fortyfivedownstairs, June 25 to July 11, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is rare and energising to see skilful writing, acting and direction in the one production. Afterplay is such an experience.

The writing and performances are deceptively simple. A man and a woman meet for the second time in a café in Moscow around the turn of the 20th century. They chat and reminisce about their respective and apparently separate lives. What makes it delicious is that we are in on a secret the pair will never know. They are both characters from two different Anton Chekhov plays.

Irish playwright, Brian Friel, bases his play on a chance meeting, twenty years after Chekhov's plays, of Andrey Prozorov (Lewis Fiander) and Sonya Serebriakov (Lyndel Rowe). The beauty of the play is its quiet, almost melancholic, Chekhovian quality. Friel pays homage to the Russian playwright.

Not only does Friel give Chekhov's much-beloved characters a prolonged life, but he revives Chekhov's own style of language, quirkiness and unpredictability in ordinary people.

Sonya the plain and simple farm manager from uncle Vanya recalls her uncle, the damage done to the farm y her father visit with his beautiful young bride Elena and her unfailing love for Doctor Michael Astrov.

Andrey, the promising older brother from The Three Sisters, still plays violin and is adored by his now middle aged sisters. All his potential has long faded and he resorts to little fictions about his life to impress Sonya.

Rowe and Fiander perform these complex characters with impeccable technique and great detail. We see every inner emotion play across their faces as they inhabit the present and remember their pasts. Rowe is still and warm as the resigned Sonya and Fiander ripples with nervousness and vulnerability as Andrey.

The wide, narrow space at fortyfivedownstairs is set with only four old wooden café tables. The action, if we can call it that, takes place at the tables.

The action is emotional rather than physical. Afterplay is a sneak view of the psychological landscape of this couple as they struggle with their demons and fight to advance beyond their pasts. We hope they will fall in love, that there will finally be a happy ending for these jaded survivors of Chekhov's harsh world.

Perhaps we will be disappointed or perhaps, this time, the Afterplay will enable them to be find happiness.

LOOK FOR: The pure and detailed acting between the words.

By Kate Herbert

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