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Josephine Balfour-Oatts

Review: AFTER YOU At The Soho Theatre

After YouAussie mother-daughter duo Hannah and Angela Norris bring their gorgeous two-hander After You to the Soho Theatre. 

After You is positively effervescent. Created and performed by Australian actor Hannah Norris and her mother Angela, the pair prove as colourful as their surroundings. Clad in tie dye and with vibrant scrunchies knotting their hair, the world of the play unfolds against a backdrop of floral sheets. Martelle Hunt’s design is one of deceptive simplicity, its layers revealing themselves steadily. It is a chest of treasures that gives shape to the piece, making After You something of a time capsule.

Together, they call on the magic of the theatre, using their stage as a tool for reflection and precognition. For the most part, the two delve into Angela’s past – namely, her experiences playing Brigitte in The Sound of Music during the 1960's. Treading the boards for four nights a week, along with additional matinees, Angela’s school years were transformed by a sense of adventure. And so, the stage management of the Norris’ lives becomes intertwined with that of a latent dream of Angela’s: to perform. This fantasy however, remained as such – any serious pursuit of the craft stoppered by those expectations placed upon her sex, and later, the realities of motherhood.

After You demonstrates an endearing meta-theatricality throughout. In part, this tool serves to create a sense of safety. If, at any point, Angela becomes overwhelmed, she has a few permitted escape routes: sick notes, or retreating into a family-size bag of crisps. Such moments are used to great effect, adding lightness to what could easily become an emotional quicksand. Written by Hannah, the script navigates fact and fiction deftly; deconstructing the ‘mythology’ that she built around her mother as a child.

That they share many similarities is too, a powerful source of tension. Both had near identical experiences moving between Australia and the UK during their formative years, have had very like ordeals in love, and yield parallels in terms of body confidence (or a lack thereof). Now an expectant mother herself, Hannah’s condition accounts for the presence of three generations on stage. But, with this also comes the threat of absence: a loss of memory, or the unspeakable nature of death. Even so, mother and daughter shimmer. All smiles, their interplay comes closer to being as opposed to acting - the action going one further than naturalism.

The result is sweet, if a little stilted at times. Regardless, After You makes for a wholesome hour. One leaves with the lyrics of 'Que Sera Sera' on their lips, comforted. What will be, will be.