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Before After review (Southwark Playhouse)


Yesterday I headed to Southwark Playhouse in London to catch the new romantic musical Before After. After reviewing at the venue a couple of times over the past few years and learning about its links with new writing, for 2024 I have purchased a pay as you go subscription so that I can visit the venue more regularly. Before After is an example of one of these new pieces of theatre, originally starting out as a live-stream in 2020 and being developed into a fully staged musical this February and March. With a book by Timothy Knapman and music and lyrics by Stuart Matthew Price, this new show features original Six queen Grace Mouat and Heathers’ Jacob Fowler, who are absolutely exceptional as the central couple.

Before After poster outside Southwark Playhouse Borough

Background and synopsis

Before After is a musical that focuses on twenty-somethings Ami (Grace Mouat) and Ben (Jacob Fowler): a young couple who are reunited on a hillside years after they first met. Unfortunately one of them can’t remember their past relationship, as they are experiencing amnesia following a car accident. The incident paves the way for a fresh start, but the past threatens to hold them back from moving forwards.

This stripped back, intimate production, tells a powerful love story that with some tweaks could be a really beautiful new piece of theatre. It covers two timelines (before the accident and after) which makes the narrative a little difficult to keep up with in places, but Yimei Zhao’s subtle costume changes and projections of the words ‘before’ and ‘after’ help make the story easier to follow.

Before After set at Southwark Playhouse Borough

Pacing and duration

There is lots to like about this production, with its stellar cast performances, heartfelt music and dreamy lighting design, but in its current state the material feels too long at 90 minutes. Whilst the relationship depicted on stage is complex, the current duration takes away some of the strength of the work, offering time for the story to dip and lose impact. In particular, there is a lull at about two thirds of the way in, where I found myself wishing that the production would start to wrap up. Sometimes less is more in theatre and a slight reduction in the number of songs and a focus on speeding up the overall pacing would ensure that the musical remains engaging throughout.

Music and lyrics

I was particularly impressed by the music and lyrics, which provide a deep insight into the characters. Standouts are Ami’s song about bad dates ‘A Little Longer’ and Ben’s anticipation-filled number ‘Tonight Is The Night’. At the climax, the title song ‘Before After’ acts as a bare-all insight into Ben’s mind, with every note in the show building to this highly charged moment. It does not disappoint and provides some much-needed answers to pending questions.

Before After curtain call at Southwark Playhouse Borough

Whilst on the whole I enjoyed the music, most of the songs have a similar melodic and tonal style. It ensures cohesion throughout, but does mean that the soundtrack lacks variety. I would have liked to have seen more tracks carry the emotional strength of the title number, bringing home the significance of the story.

Lighting design

Alex Musgrave’s lighting design dresses the simple set in glowing hues, which mimic the incredible skies and sunsets on the hilltop. Accentuating the set pieces, the lighting cleverly aids the scene transitions and helps bring to life the characters’ favourite location. Throughout the production, I enjoyed seeing the subtle changes in the lighting, which added to the overall theme of romance.

Cast performances

The production is brilliantly led by Mouat and Fowler, who have undeniable chemistry together. They manage to sensitively illustrate the highs and lows of Ami and Ben’s relationship, through the ‘all in’ emotional dialogue and striking vocal performances. Both performers have the opportunity to shine in their solo numbers and duets, collaborating with the onstage band to make each song appear effortless. Director Georgie Rankcom has clearly accentuated the talents of the cast and musical team, through their careful direction.

Before After curtain call at Southwark Playhouse Borough

The future of Before After

The romantic musical with buckets of potential runs at Southwark Playhouse until Saturday 2nd March. I am looking forward to hearing what comes next for the show, with its endearing soundtrack. Last minute tickets can be purchased via the theatre’s website.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx



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