Review: After the Peace

3 star rating
Asks pertinent questions about reconciliation after civil war, but the execution of the drama lacks realism and general applicability, and the denouement isn't credible.
Exterior photo of RADA, London.

Photo by Peter Brown


Theatre: RADA

Closes here: Saturday 6 July 2019

Author:
Clare Bayley

Director:
Deborah Paige

Cast:

Sophie - Mara Allen

Mum - Sharlene Whyte

Dad - Bo Poraj

Caz - Emma Ernest


Synopsis


In the aftermath of a future civil war, Sophie wants peace. But when her father and lover clash, she must choose which side she's on.

ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Saturday 29 June 2019
Review star rating image

We might be tempted to think that civil war is an unlikely outcome in the UK.


After all, we have a long history of democracy and accept the power of the ballot box, and, perhaps, a sense of moderation that prevents us from crossing the line of heated debate to enter a state of full-blown civil war to resolve strife.


But could civil war break-out if divisions in society were fuelled by megalomaniac politicians, or if a combination of factors aligned at the right moment?


In this play by Clare Bayley, we actually find ourselves in the aftermath of a civil war, where a kind of uneasy peace has been concocted and an interim government has assumed power.


So we never get to know exactly what caused the war, though we do meet one man who seems to have been a proactive figure in instigating it.


Ms Bayley's play, though, isn't concerned so much with the causes of the war but in the consequences, especially as experienced by one family and one member of it in particular.


We're at some indeterminate time in the future as the play begins, and though there is peace of a kind, it still seems fragile and teetering on the brink of collapse with raw, emotional wounds still affecting the population.


Bombs intermittently explode, vigilantes are active (even dragging away poor souls who play their music too loud) and a demarcation line is in place in London, presumably to keep warring factions apart, and people are subject to a curfew.


On top of all that, the electricity fails occasionally and water as well as food is in short supply.


Yet Sophie has found a job at a newly-refurbished community swimming pool where she works with colleague, Caz.


The spark of romance ignites between these two co-workers, but their fledgling relationship is marred and constrained by the fact that their parents were on opposing sides in the civil war.


Sophie's dad is now on the run as a war criminal, and Caz's mum was a civil right's lawyer, who at one point was building a case against the former government and Sophie's dad, and is now presumed dead.


Given the divisions currently evident in our society thanks to the result of the 2016 EU referendum, the rise of populism and the dangers of right-wing extremism, After the Peace poses pertinent and thought-provoking questions.


But the execution of the drama isn't wholly satisfactory, because it lacks realism on several levels.


For example, there's little evidence to give the sense of exhausted, war-weary people still struggling to make it through each day of their lives.


Though there's an able cast at work here, the characterisations don't really describe people who are dispirited and debilitated by war.


Clothes are too neat and clean (there's little water, remember) with little sign of wartime wear and tear.


Though Sophie and her mum avoided the worst of the conflict (having escaped to Yorkshire) one would still expect them to have been smitten by the general post-war hardships once back in the capital.


I also couldn't buy the fact that a swimming pool had been restored in spite of shortages of essentials, and the fact that it had been a prison during the war makes it an eerie location for relaxation or exercise.


And the coincidence that Sophie and Caz - on separate sides of the political divide and both with parents in prominent positions in the conflict - would find jobs at the same location seemed a hokey if convenient device.


There are times when the dialogue too lacks realism, and the final moments provide a coda that isn't credible because, as fairly recent history has shown, ousted dictators and their accomplices rarely fall on their swords.


In focusing on individuals, After The Peace has little to say about how to execute community-wide reconciliation in a post-conflict society, which would seem to be more relevant given our current political climate.



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