After The Ball, written by Ian Grant, sees William Randall (Stuart Fox) grow from an idealistic young man to a frail whisper of who he used to be, and the relationships he forms along the way.
As you can imagine, this mass range of age is a huge feat for any one actor to portray, and unfortunately, the work which is put in by Fox and the rest of the cast to differentiate the change in their ages is feebly done. The tactic which Julia Watson seems to adopt is to make herself irritatingly softly spoken when she is portraying the younger Blanche Randall, and when she becomes older, her accent changes, which begs the question as to why this is necessary, if she is meant to be playing the same character, just at a different time in her life? Fox shows no transition from a 28 year-old to a 50 year old, which makes the scenes from his younger days completely inconceivable. The many heavy themes of war, equality and PTSD also sets a task seemingly too overwhelming for the cast and their director, Nadia Papachronopoulou, as with so much ground to cover, next to no attention is paid to these issues. These stories take place in a time of high stakes, not knowing if you’ll be the unlucky neighbourhood to be bombed, however there is no sense of energy pertaining to these characters and their lives, a complete lack of subtext. The journeys could be so well intertwined emotionally, but unfortunately it feels as if all that happened during rehearsal was that the lines were learnt and the movements blocked out ready for an audience. There are some nice moments from Emily Tucker as Joyce Randall, the independent daughter of William and Blanche, and also from Mark Carlisle as Ted Turner, the army sergeant.
The timeline of Grant’s play jumps back and forth, a motif which becomes repetitive, especially as the scenes do not seem to result in anything, just a trudging along of memories and mediocre conversations. For such a dramatic premise, it is quite a shock how lack luster this production is.
At the end of the performance, the question I am left asking is, who is this actually for? Any important points that could have been made seem to be lost in translation, due to the fact that too many ideas are coming into play, resulting in a poor attempt at storytelling.
After The Ball is playing Upstairs at The Gatehouse until the 24th March 2018. For more information and tickets, see