After All These Years review – Theatre at the Tabard, Chiswick ★★★☆☆

Photo: Charles Flint

Review by Natalie Evans

Following an acclaimed run at the Brighton Fringe Festival last year, After All These Years has taken up a short term stay at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick. Written by Giles Cole, this vaguely Rattigan-esque domestic dramedy perfectly suits the intimate interior and usual programme of naturalistic, dialogue heavy, and small cast plays.

Starting off strong, we are introduced to Alf (Jeffrey Holland) and Charlie (Graham Poutney) as they sit in the pub and natter about anything and everything that comes to mind, or in Alf’s case, fails to. Honestly, I would have been quite happy (potentially more happy) spending the whole two hours in this scene alone listening to them unpack their lives, loves, and losses over a pint. The scene was paced excellently, ebbing and flowing with moments of comedy and conversation that you could very easily imagine being had at that very moment across London between old friends.

Holland is particularly compelling throughout the piece, impressively encapsulating the essence of someone who is slowly succumbing to age and trying to fight it. I utterly believed him every time he grasped for a word that was hiding in his fading memory, and was genuinely touched by his performance.

Photo: Charles Flint

Then, disaster struck with a set change that totally ejected me from the world of the play and back into the stark reality of the theatre. The wing curtains were flung open, there was clattering backstage, the music wasn’t looped, the lights were too bright, and the stage hands were uncoordinated. I could have perhaps forgiven this if the design was particularly intricate or impressive, but I have seen much more complicated set changes executed with much more tact, and so I can only imagine that this aspect of the performance was completely overlooked during rehearsal, despite it being vital to the production’s success that it be a smooth transition.

This subsequently made for a rather difficult job of redeeming the pace of the performance, and engagement of the audience to Judy Buxton and Carol Ball as Joannie and Marianne, and, for the most part, I would say they succeeded. They definitely matched the energy of their male counterparts, presenting us with another pair of amusing and familiar characters portrayed by another pair of clearly talented actors.

However, I didn’t quite believe their friendship the same way I believed Alf and Charlie’s. I appreciate this may have been the point – they had stayed friends out of convenience more than anything else, but I would have appreciated seeing a more genuine connection as I think it would have made for a more interesting character dynamic. Especially after the interval, where they behaved practically like strangers.

All in all, I left the theatre entertained but otherwise a little indifferent.

After All These Years is at the Theatre at the Tabard, Chiswick until 24 February 2024.