After You – Theatre Review

AFTER YOU is a play about love – the true love that exists between daughter (Hannah Norris) and mother Angela (Norris). It’s a play about what was, what could have been, and how the future might pan out.

It’s funny, in places rather moving and tender, and actually all rather absorbing. An hour that engages you from the very start when Hannah welcomes each and every audience member into their seats, through to the sing-along at the end. Heart-warming. Life-affirming.

Based on the real lives of Australian writer Hannah and mother Angela, it looks back at the life of Angela and how different it could have been if she had made different decisions.

At the tender age of 14, she performed in the first-ever Australian production of The Sound of Music at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre. But rather than kick on, she decided (was encouraged) to change tack like many talented young women of her generation. Marriage and motherhood soon put her on an alternative pathway. Regrets? Je ne regrette rien?

In some ways, there are parallels between their two lives. Both have a thirst for travel – both have acting in their genes – and with Hannah pregnant, her life is somewhat at a crossroads. Which way will she turn?

For Angela, the play gives her the opportunity to display her talents – and boy does she seize the moment as she furiously tap dances away like Fred Astaire and dismisses any preconceived ideas that Zumba is a walk in the park (I was sweating profusely just watching her). Missed opportunities? Yes. A stirring in the loins for a career sacrificed? Yes. A little bit awkward (embarrassing) at times for Angela as she is forced to come to terms with the past although Hannah gives her a get out of jail card when she does not want to answer certain questions – a process involving a member of the audience sitting in the front row.

After You could have been over-indulgent and infused with schmaltz overload. But Hannah’s clever script and Angela’s undimmed energy win over the night. What I loved about the play was the genuine love between the two of them. For evidence of that, just look at the way Hannah looks at her mother throughout – eyes bulging with genuine pride.

After You is an advert for both familial love and longevity. It’s never too late to make a mark in life. And think about it. Angela performed in The Sound of Music in 1961. Do the maths and marvel.

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