Theatre Re-review: Afterglow (Waterloo East Theatre) ★★★1/2

Afterglow, the gratuitously sexy gay thruple drama, is back after a small break. New cast, new venue, same porny showerhead. Like the endless evolution of the Sugababes, Afterglow 2.0 is playing the same songs with some different voices. Comparisons are unavoidable.

To the credit of the producers, this new cast has broken out of the “three sexy white guys” mould and we now have “three sexy guys of different ethnic backgrounds”. While the brilliant all-black Death of a Salesman that started down the road at the Young Vic brought a racial tension to the traditionally white text, the diversity here is admirable but hasn’t really altered the subtext of the play. But who needs subtext when you got…

Photo by Darren Bell

It is interesting to watch a new cast take on the characters though, especially when they are not forced to continue the previous interpretation. The last production had an air of thinly veiled WASPy sadness underneath the skin – an insecurity behind the perfect white gay couple. That’s replaced here by a more all-encompassing emotional ennui – new lovers just helping to pass the time, a surrogate child is a pre-programmed next step. The relationship between Alex and Josh feels emotionally inert – the connection doesn’t seem to extend beyond the physical anymore.

Photo by Darren Bell

Peter McPherson’s Alex has a charming “puppy dog” quality to him, while Adi Chugh’s Josh has a cooler tone to him. Benjamin Aluwihare’s Darius is all wounded optimism – part exuberance, part disappointment. And yes, they all look great in various configurations in the sexy shower…

Photo by Darren Bell

This time, the show is presented in a more traditional proscenium arch configuration (as opposed to the three-sided thrust of the original Southwark Playhouse production – and no, “three-sided thrust” wasn’t meant to be a pun). And maybe it’s the smaller space, or maybe it’s the new cast, or maybe it’s because I was sitting in the front row – but this production feels more melodramatic. This is the polyamory telenovela you never knew you needed, with bonus live…

Photo by Darren Bell

There are some messy American accents, and the chemistry between the three actors doesn’t always work – leading to emotional scenes that feel unearned.  Of course, the charm of Afterglow is that just as your attention is starting to waiver (in this tighter 75min production) you get another sexy shower scene. Well, if you’ve gone to the expense of installing the shower you may as well get your money’s worth.

Photo by Darren Bell

If you’re going for the nudity (and let’s be honest, a lot of people will be), you’ll be more than satisfied. And hey, if you’re not there’s a discount for the gay sauna around the corner in the back of the programme! Afterglow is still the sexiest show in London – so enjoy it!

By Chad Armstrong

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