Three's Company: Afterglow At Southwark Playhouse

Afterglow, Southwark Playhouse ★★★☆☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 37 months ago

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Three's Company: Afterglow At Southwark Playhouse Afterglow, Southwark Playhouse 3
Photo: Darren Bell

We start with a triple simultaneous orgasm. That's pretty innovative, because it would take considerable stage managing in real life.

On stage love triangles are far from new, but Afterglow is self-consciously a contemporary  ‘gay play’. There is modernity in its smart Manhattanite married couple expecting a baby by surrogate, and involving a young masseur in their sex life: the characters are a bit self-regarding but nice enough. They‘re fit, lean and dress and undress so often it’s like a catwalk show at Banana Republic with live sex — but it’s predictable what happens when the third wheel falls for one of the pair.

Photo: Darren Bell

There's a lot of wordy, worthy discussion but nothing to shock or offend. Perhaps there should be: what’s discussed is whether it’s hypocritical of married couples to involve single men in their physical lives without caring that they don’t get any emotional fulfilment. Are men, even as young as the Darius character in the play, becoming the Bridget Joneses of the gay world, used until discarded by ‘smug marrieds’?

All three actors — Sean Hart, Jesse Fox and Danny Mahoney — are splendidly well-focused and have authentic New York inflections: the sex involves a lot of energetic shoulder-grabbing and closed-mouth kissing so it’s more representative than raunchy, and you soon discard any discomfort at seeing them naked.

Photo: Darren Bell

It is a classy production but still slow, and because every scene change is like cleaning up after a particularly acrobatic bedroom ruck, there are more pauses and longeurs than you might wish.

It may not be The Inheritance, but it is a significant notch above fringe gay dramas in London recently. And the ambiguous ending leaves room for your own opinions.

Afterglow,  Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway, SE1. Tickets £22-24, until 20 July 2019.

Last Updated 12 June 2019