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“Sensitively written chekhovian mash-up”

Despite its cheesy title, Brian Friel’s Afterplay is a sensitively written character study that imagines a meeting of two characters from Chekhov’s canon. In a ghostly quiet Moscow cafe, destitute violinist Andrey – brother to the Three Sisters – and lovelorn but tenacious Sonya – niece to Uncle Vanya – share vodka, lukewarm soup and a tentative friendship.

Their dialogue is a delicate flirtation, deliberately slow-paced and meandering but nevertheless absolutely absorbing. Friel’s script forensically, yet playfully, dissects Chekhov’s characters, finding a depth of warmth, complication and recognisable frailty simmering away like the water in a samovar. Director John Haidar has taken pains to illuminate each subtle detail, ensuring every casual gesture and unconscious hesitation conveys some deeper meaning.

Rory Keenan plays Andrey with great charm, a fumbling but well-meaning failure creating a web of lies as a way of imagining a better life for his estranged family. Meanwhile, Mariah Gale gives Sonya a convincingly brittle edge, a volatile mix of insecurity and isolation bringing a sense of desperation to even her lighter moods.

Lucy Osborne’s gorgeously realised set features sharply slanted, perspective-bending walls of glass and wood panelling, complete with a mirrored floor and ceiling that draws the eye forcefully to a spindly, lifeless tree beyond a vast window, where snow falls ceaselessly. A palette of warm greys and faded wooden furniture picks up every shift in Malcolm Rippeth’s evocative lighting design, which drifts between honey-coloured heat and chilly blue in sync with the protagonists’ rising and falling hopes.

Related to this Review

Uncle VanyaUncle Vanya

Production Details
Production nameAfterplay
VenueCoronet Theatre
StartsMarch 7, 2020
EndsApril 4, 2020
Running time1hr 5mins
AuthorBrian Friel
DirectorJohn Haidar
Set designerLucy Osborne
Lighting designerMalcolm Rippeth
Sound designerAdam Cork
CastMariah Gale, Rory Keenan
TechnicalAndy Mcdonald
ProducerCoronet Theatre
VerdictPrecise direction and consummate performances bring a gripping clarity to Brian Friel’s bittersweet Chekhov mash-up
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Dave Fargnoli

Dave Fargnoli

Dave Fargnoli

Dave Fargnoli

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