Before, After – by Stuart Matthew Price and Timothy Knapman. Southwark Playhouse streamed 26 & 27 September 2020. 4****. William Russell

Workshopped a few years ago at the St James theatre Rosalie Craig and Hadley Fraser performed a rehearsed reading of this musical from the Little at Southwark Playhouse for two days only – they were streamed live and the show will not be available elsewhere later. It is a pity because it is a charming tale of love lost and found and Fraser and Craig, husband and wife in real life, are gifted performers who manage to create two people seeking happiness in spite of themselves. It is one of those sung through musicals – the spoken dialogue is sparse – and the story with its time shifts between now and then and back again is at times difficult to follow. A full staged production could probably overcome the difficulty easily with a set that could change as locations and times change. If Before, After lacks anything is is a ten o’clock number – the name for the big ballad that everyone will remember, something Andrew Lloyd Weber is particularly good at providing. The music is pleasant, does what is required of it and is well sung by Fraser and Craig but nothing sticks in the memory.
Ami meets Ben one day on a hilltop by a rather splendid tree. They chat, they are attracted to one another, but he has problems – he lost his memory in a car crash. But it soon becomes clear that Ben met Ami in the past, the love affair somehow ended, and she realises who he is but he has no idea. Will they live happily every after. Things are complicated by the fact Ben is a painter and deeply insecure about his work, while Ami has a domineering faher who featured too much in her life when they were young. But the couple of now are not the same as the couple of then – he is no afflicted with his memory loss, she has matured and found a career that satisfies her. They have a second chance for love. Will they take it?
Craig and Fraser deliver the goods and maybe when the time is right the show will surface in a studio theatre properly staged – a rehearsed reading means what it says.
Photograph: Southwark PLayhouse/The Grey Area Theatre Company

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