If this incredibly long, incredibly hard and continuing theatre shutdown has taught me anything, it’s that nothing (not even a global pandemic) can stop the arts. The theatre industry and the arts as a whole never stop breathing, never stop growing and never stop evolving. Through this entire ordeal, the brilliant amazing creative minds that make the industry tick have been hard at work, making art and bringing the power of theatre into our own homes, bringing it through our computer screens and straight into our hearts.
Presented in association with Quick Fantastic, staged at the beautiful London Coliseum, and streamed to the masses by Stream.Theatre, After You was the latest in the large offering of theatre at home we have all been treated too. With music by Alex Parker and book and lyrics by Katie Lam, After You stars Alexia Khadime (Wicked, Prince of Egypt) and Bradley Jaden (Les Miserables, Wicked) in a brand new two hander musical that will both pull at your heartstrings and surprise you throughout.
In a story set upon a cruise liner travelling from England to New York, we are introduced to two characters; a cruise ship singer searching for adventure and the joys of life and a successful lawyer who wants nothing more than to keep her head down, work and make it to her destination without any trouble. In a single moment that could be considered a simple twist of fate, the two meet and opposites attract. The pair share stories, tell each other their hopes for the future and become close over the week they are travelling together, but how truthful are they being? Do they both want the same thing? And what will happen when they reach New York and leave the ship?
In After You’s all too brief running time of just under an hour, we are introduced too many intricate ideas and qualities of a relationship. It’s a true glimpse into the thoughts of two people entering into something new, when both are unsure what that something is or what it is going to be. It puts the idea that we live the lives we choose to the forefront, picking apart the moments where we are forced to choose what paths we take and the things we choose the share and the things we keep to ourselves. It’s so well written and put together as a two hander, so much so that we don’t even need to know the characters names in order to feel deeply connected to them. It’s easy to hang on every word, cling to everything that we are told about their lives, and savour every moment of this detailed look into this beautiful connection between them, surprises and all.
Both Khadime and Jaden impress throughout with their vocals, filling an empty London Coliseum with an apparent ease and bringing the story to life in the most stunning of fashions. Their voices fit the gorgeous melodies of this heartfelt musical to a tee, with Khadime pouring her heart out as her character tries to work out how she feels about the singer she meets aboard the cruise liner, and why she feels that way. Jaden’s powerful voice soars through many powerful moments of sheer beauty. His character is so passionate and full of life and you can feel that in every word.
For a show with such beautiful songs, such engaging, captivating characters and a story that grips you from start to end, it feels a shame that we had to experience through a computer screen but nevertheless I feel lucky that I had the chance to do so. I can only hope that once we are through all of this and theatres are allowed to throw open their doors to full audiences again, that we all get the chance to experience After You in the flesh. I can imagine how it would feel to experience such a treat in person. But until then, can we please have a cast recording?