An homage to Chekhov, Afterplay is a two-hander play in which the characters are taken from two different Chekhov plays and fast forwarded twenty or so years into the future. Sonya from Uncle Vanya and Andrey (the brother from The Three Sisters) feature in this melancholic one-act play about the ‘tundra of loneliness’.
Brisbane’s newest independent theatre company, Room to Play’s presented Brian Friel’s Afterplay as their début production. The intimate play is set aptly in an alternative theatre space, transforming the Paddington Substation Gallery / Café, into a 1920’s Moscow cafe.
Although prior knowledge of Chekhov’s works isn’t necessary, an understanding of the inherent backstory of the main characters and secondary characters they speak about, would make a far richer tapestry.
Two lonely strangers have a chance meeting in the cafe, and through discussions about luke-warm cabbage soup, brown bread, and skin irritations, the two grapple to find common ground and solace in the company of a stranger, against the backdrop of a bleak life with a bleak future (in a very Beckett kind of way).
Sonya (played by sophisticated Emma Skelton), is the reliable spinster who inherited Uncle Vanya’s estate, while Andrey (played by the cheeky Wayne Bassett), presents himself as a concert violinist who is rehearsing La bohème for the Moscow Opera.
Then quite unexpectedly, Sonya opens up a bottle of Vodka, and things get interesting. As the drink sinks in, pretense slowly falls away to reveal Andrey’s propensity for untruths to cover the pain and shame of and fruitless life, and Sonya’s financial woes of a mis-managed estate.
And while there looks to be a glimpse of hope that together, they could live in a better world, Sonya’s stubborn commitment to a futile future of waiting for rare visitations from an unrequited love, dissolves any chance of happiness.
Director Heidi Manche made best use of the small rostrum by having Andrey (Wayne Bassett), make full use of the area without remaining seated for too long, while Sonya (Emma Skelton) aptly stayed seated at the café table. The use of the waitress at the counter was a nice touch, tying in the venue with the set.
At just under an hour, this was the right length for this intimate, intellectual play.
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