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Southwark Playhouse Borough

BEFORE AFTER at Southwark Playhouse Borough


“Director Georgia Rankcom steers the show deftly through its ninety minutes, not allowing it to drag, and the overall show claims a unique quality”

From the moment Ben and Ami meet on a hillside we know we are looking out onto a lush, Romcom landscape. A warm glow washes over us as the filmic, easy-listening chords are plucked from the piano, cello and guitar accompaniment. The dialogue is snappy and the premise is quirky. The delivery is faultless and at the same time effortless. We hope we are going to be jolted out of our comfort zone, but instead of being challenged, we allow ourselves simply to be drawn into the story. Which is a delight, in no small way due to the polished performances of Jacob Fowler and Grace Mouat.

The chance meeting on the hillside is preordained. Ben and Ami have both been here before. Ami remembers everything but Ben is a blank canvas. The backstory is revealed swiftly enough, and it is now up to the couple to piece together their second chance at a happy ending. Ben has the disadvantage. He remembers nothing of their past relationship due to amnesia caused by a car accident just at the point things were starting to go horribly wrong with them. Ami decides not to reveal their past together, leading him on for too long. Her reasons are slightly implausible, but a necessary device to stoke the narrative with the tension it needs.

The story swings back and forth from the present to the past, each episode giving us more insight into the ‘before’ and ‘after’ relationship. There are the usual pitfalls, jealousies and arguments, but Timothy Knapman’s crisp and often witty text give them a fresh makeover, and Fowler and Mouat pitch the characterisation with a relaxed authenticity. They are both highly watchable and in fine voice throughout. Refreshingly no amplification is used, and the balance is spot on as the couple project over the trio of musicians. There is a chamber music quality that allows Stuart Matthew Prices’ lyrics to reach us, unfiltered and crystal clear.

There is a comfortable predictability and solutions become a bit oversimplified, that we long for more hazards, or twists, to trip us up. Similarly, the score drives along at a safe rate with few gear changes. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy, not least the chemistry between our two lovebirds. Director Georgia Rankcom steers the show deftly through its ninety minutes, not allowing it to drag, and the overall show claims a unique quality. During the moments of dialogue, we look forward to the next musical number, and during the songs we look forward to the next spoken scene. In no way a criticism of either, it is testament to the fine balance and connection between lyricist, composer and writer. Scenes mould seamlessly into song and vice versa, just as past and present intertwine as though in a well-choreographed waltz. Lines are echoed and repeated, taking on a new meaning depending in which time zone they are spoken.

Originally produced at the same venue during lockdown as a live streamed rehearsed reading, the reception back then was one of eager anticipation for the show to be fully realised on the stage. That was before, and this is after. The show feels as though it is still somewhere in the middle, and there is still another ‘after’ to come. A central premise of the musical is the question that asks, ‘is what comes after better than before’. This revival affirms the positivity that the story reflects, and we look forward to it standing the test of time.

BEFORE AFTER at Southwark Playhouse Borough

Reviewed on 9th February 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Danny Kaan



Previously reviewed at Southwark Playhouse venues

AFTERGLOW | ★★★★ | January 2024
LIZZIE | ★★★ | November 2023
MANIC STREET CREATURE | ★★★★ | October 2023
THE CHANGELING | ★★★½ | October 2023
RIDE | ★★★ | July 2023
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS … | ★★★★★ | May 2023
STRIKE! | ★★★★★ | April 2023
THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH | ★★★★ | March 2023
SMOKE | ★★ | February 2023
THE WALWORTH FARCE | ★★★ | February 2023



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure

It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure


VAULT Festival



It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure

“The cast are all entirely charming, pushing the audience to a gentle discomfort whilst keeping the tone silly and fun”


VAULT Festival has an offering of nearly 600 shows across three months. I’m reviewing a fair few, and whilst some were picked because the blurb piqued my interest, 600 shows is a lot to sift through. So I must admit, quite a few were picked because someone recommended them, as is the case with It’s a Motherf***ing Pleasure. But as the cast rather gleefully points out, this is the first performance of the show, so how on earth could the ES or Lyn Gardner know if it were any good, or indeed “important”?

Aarian Mehrabani, one of three cast members claims this is a perfect of example of non-disabled guilt, recommending a completely unknown show likely just because it’s created by FlawBored, a disability-led theatre company. In this instance it’s worked in their favour- the auditorium is packed. But It’s a Mother F***ing Pleasure seeks to work through some of the darker consequences of this impulse, and those who are happy to take advantage of it.

They also readily admit it’s a difficult conversation to navigate, spending the first ten minutes desperately ensuring that the audience’s access requirements are taken care of, and the last ten minutes apologising profusely to everyone they’ve no doubt offended.

And somewhere in the middle they tell a story that, whilst not technically true, has no doubt taken place in some form or other in multiple corporate offices: a PR agency has been accused of being ableist after one of their influencers has said something questionable on their channel. And, of course, rather than think about how this has happened and seek to educate themselves, they decide to monetise this opportunity and hire a brown, gay, blind influencer to become the face of Revision, a series of blind ‘experiences’ to sell to the guilt-ridden seeing public.

The cast are all entirely charming, pushing the audience to a gentle discomfort whilst keeping the tone silly and fun. The idea of ICAD- Integrated Creative Audio Description, which describes, not just what’s happening, but the vibe, is genuinely brilliant and I look forward to other shows employing it in earnest.

The plot itself starts strong, funny and relatable, and necessarily takes a sharp turn off a cliff. But it heroically saves itself with lashings of self-awareness. The reviewers in the audience are warned that should they give any less than four stars, everyone will think they’re a c*nt for criticising a disability-led theatre company. And on the way out, the audience is offered ‘I’m an ally’ badges, and printed suggestions of enthusiastic tweets, to show that they’re not ableist.

I, of course, would never be swayed by such things. Sure, I took a badge to show everyone, as Chloe Palmer tells me, that I’m not ableist anymore, and that I’m better than everyone else. But I would never give a skewed rating no matter how blind the cast is. I just happened to really like it. Funny, chaotic and wincingly relevant.


Reviewed on 21st February 2023

by Miriam Sallon

Vault Festival 2023

More VAULT Festival reviews


Caceroleo | ★★★★ | January 2023
Cybil Service | ★★★★ | January 2023
Butchered | ★★★★ | January 2023
Intruder | ★★★★ | January 2023
Thirsty | ★★★★★ | February 2023
Kings of the Clubs | ★★★ | February 2023
Gay Witch Sex Cult | ★★★★★ | February 2023
Love In | ★★★★ | February 2023
Patient 4620 | ★★★★★ | February 2023

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