Grand Themes And Small Change In After The Ball

After the Ball, Upstairs at the Gatehouse ★★★☆☆

By Matthew Holder Last edited 9 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

Grand Themes And Small Change In After The Ball After the Ball, Upstairs at the Gatehouse 3
Photo: Mitzi de Margary

An interesting take on socialist history, but with political and personal betrayal spanning 60 years, After the Ball strains under the weight of its themes to truly resonate. Among well-worn first world war tropes of hellish trench life, French maids keeping husbands abroad while wives wait dutifully at home and cartoon spivs, the exploration of a long marriage and the couple’s socialist beliefs offers more interest.

William (Stuart Fox) and Blanche’s (Julia Watson) hopes for a better world can be poignant and when it works, After the Ball does unearth a fresh take on how the working class failed to stage the revolution. The problem is that the love dynamic in the marriage is squeezed out by the amount of material it tries to get through, from first world war to Britain’s entry into the Common Market, and casting them as older versions of themselves to enable ‘time travel,’ doesn’t help our identification with their youthful idealism.

Photo: Mitzi de Margary

Speechmaking is too on the nose to convince, a lack of conviction which at times undermines the actor’s ability to add drama to the history lesson. Yet a final scene when different historical times are represented on stage and the play finally learns to breath, does have some power and offers a glimpse of the play’s heart.

After the Ball, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, N6 4BD. Until 24 March 2018. Tickets £16.

Last Updated 20 March 2018