After Party review at Pleasance, London – ‘strong ensemble work’
As the haze subsides from a hedonistic bash with a suitably thumping soundtrack, a group of 20-something friends reconvene to pick up the pieces. Among the spliff butts and empty booze bottles in Wildcard’s After Party lie clues to skeletons from their shared past.
Although the landlord’s coming to inspect the flat shortly, birthday girl Bethany (Olivia Sweeney) and stoner-in-chief Harlan (Alex Forward) carry on partying. They seem determined to cling to their youth: “When you’re young, you worry about the future; when you’re old, you regret past mistakes.” Meanwhile, Phoebe (Megan Pemberton), the only flatmate with a regular job, squirts the Febreze with suitable hauteur.
When Max (Callum Cameron), a snarling mess of pent-up rage, finally appears, the party’s over: it’s time to face up to reality. The complex web of relationships unweaves and long-suppressed emotions of enigmatic Jack (playwright James Meteyard) and all-round good boy Will (Jamie Chandler) come to the fore.
Strong ensemble work runs throughout the piece. At the best moments, a glance and a few words express much, but sometimes the dialogue feels forced: characters say too much for the sake of exposition or their addled conversations veer towards the overly philosophical.
But at its core, After Party deftly captures its characters’ creeping awareness of responsibility. Having done their best to outrun adulthood, they have to take stock and address the past. Peppered with humour (especially from Atilla Akinci’s quirky outsider Allan), the piece gradually opens out to give fully rounded portraits as their loyalties are tested to the limit.