Theatre Review: Afterglow

When the lights in London’s Southwark Playhouse go up they reveal three naked male bodies, entwined on a bed, writes Cary Gee. All three look decidedly wholesome. There is no sheen of sweat, which makes me rather think that whatever they have been doing they have not been doing it properly.

Married couple Josh, (Sean Hart) and Alex (Danny Mahoney) are expecting a child (through surrogacy). You might think they had enough on their plate without worrying about spicing up their sex life. But no, they have invited young Darius to join in their fun. As long as they both stick to the rules – no emotional involvement – what could possibly go wrong?

While Alex (a chemist) is in his laboratory conducting important research Josh is an actor which conveniently allows him to spend his afternoons conducting his own experiments with Darius rather than working. Experiments that mostly involve pulling his shorts up and down with barely a thought to his marriage and forthcoming child.

And that, essentially, is all you need to know. Josh falls in love with Darius, Alex demands Josh ends his relationship with Darius. Alex changes his mind, then changes it back again, while Darius (a masseur who seems to possess no agency of his own) looks on and looks lovely and all three spend less time in clothes than they do naked or draped in towels.

That said, all three actors are excellent at portraying the vacuity that resides at the heart of writer S Asher Gelman’s play. Gelman does manage to create some much-needed dramatic tension towards the end, as Darius finally comes to his senses, before losing them again, but ultimatley, when you don’t give a hoot what happens you’re grateful for any conclusion.

That’s not to say Afterglow is without merit. Theatre should pose difficult questions and I doubt anyone still paying attention did not at some point question the status of their own relationship, but as Josh says in a rare moment of clarity.“Nobody wrote a fairy tale about polyamory” and there’s a very good reason for that.

Afterglow is at the Southwark Playhouse, London, until 20 July

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