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Criterion Theatre
After Life (2023)
Written by Jack Thorne
Sat 4th February to Sat 11th February

If you could spend eternity with just one precious memory, what would it be?

Director – Anne-marie Greene
Production Photos
Two – Ted Mcgowan
Three – Karen Evans
Four – Kelly Davidson
Five – Jan Nightingale
Hari Markowitz – Jon Elves
Beatrice Killick – Dawn Morris
Obafemi Taylor – Ryan Morrison
Jill Smart – Talya Rajagukguk
Henry Thompson – Abdenour (Nouri) Beladaci
Otto Bradbury (Filmed) – Richard Overton
Georgie Hanoy (Filmed) – Bernadette Baretto
Graham Jenkins – Simon Brougham
Katie Markowitz (Filmed) – Leonie Slater
Young Beatrice (Filmed) – Alexandra Vickers
Patricia Murphy (Filmed) – Helen Withers
Young Hari Markowitz (Filmed) – Jake Elves
Assistant Director – Georgia Kelly
Stage Manager – Frances Dixon
Projection Design – Elim Arthur Leigh
Set Designer – Elim Arthur Leigh
Set Build i/c – Mandy Sutton
Wardrobe I/C – Linda Holmes
Lighting Designer – Karl Stafford
Sound Designer – Dave Cornish
Set Build – Christopher Hernon
Music Recording – Nicol Cortese
Wardrobe – Pam Coleman
Music Composition – Dwain Daley
Lighting Operator – Paul Harrison
Wardrobe – Maureen Liggins
Film Production – Elim Arthur Leigh
Set Paint – Judy Talbot
Set Paint – Paul Chokran
Sound Compilation – Peter Gillam
Set Build – Mike Waterson
Set Build – Mark Ward
Set Build – Leo Hernon
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Simon Sharpe
Props – Sally Patalong
Props – Bill Young
Props – Erica Young
Sound Operator – Ellen Sharkey
Sound Operator – Dave Cornish
Sound Designer – Anne-marie Greene
Lighting Operator – Paul Harrison
Lighting Operator – Verity Gillam-Greene
Prompt – Erica Young
Prompt – Lilian McGrath

"...this production was thoroughly entertaining as well as thought-provoking....brilliantly brought to life by the talented cast" Elementary Whatson

"the charm of this lovely, slow-burning and deeply poetical have achieved so much for 11 distinct characters, and to have kept us enthralled throughout, is a small miracle of writing, acting and directing" Warwickshire World

Read the whole of the reviews here.

A group of strangers find themselves in a bureaucratic waiting room between life and death. Encouraged by enigmatic officials, they must sift through their past lives to choose their forever.

Adapted from Hirokazu Kore-eda's award-winning film, After Life is a surreal and powerfully human look at the way we view our lives, and a haunting meditation on what it is to live – and to die.

Written by Jack Thorne (Let the Right One In, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and for television, Help, Shameless, Skins, and This is EnglandAfter Life was first performed at the National Theatre, London, in June 2021.


EDI Assessment

In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. ‘After Life’ has no specific diversity message within its narrative. The play can be cast with complete neutrality on race/ethnicity. Parts of its story lend themselves to gender, ethnicity and age specificity in certain roles but this could be open to artistic judgement permitting maximum flexibility to achieve the most diverse cast possible.

As we set off for an evening at the Criterion Theatre we were slightly daunted by the online reviews we had read - the piece sounded rather highbrow and inaccessible.  

Nothing could have been further from the truth - this production was thoroughly entertaining as well as thought-provoking.  Despite the underlying premise - the action takes place in 'a never-world between death and the afterlife' - a sparkling joie de vivre was frequently evident (or should that be ’joie de mourir’?).

A number of varied characters are supported by supposedly objective guides through a week during which they must select a single memory to take into the afterlife.  All of them are brilliantly brought to life by the talented cast as their stories gradually emerge, including those of the guides.

The action is supported by projected scenes from their lives as well as ‘work in progress’ on the memories being constructed– especially effective in the scene where the elderly Beatrice (Dawn Morris) dances with her younger self on screen.  Other dancing highlights included Number One’s solo number (Nick Doughlin excels) and Number Four’s angel number (Kelly Davidson at her most twinkly!).

The difficulties of selecting a single memory from one’s life are portrayed in different ways – Beatrice complains that this is not what she expected of death:  “We wanted peace, not choice”;  whereas Hari (Jon Elves) agonises until the very last moment; and Obafemi (Ryan Morrison) just refuses to select any memory, as he has no memory that doesn’t involve him being ill.

The audio memories were a little difficult to decipher sometimes, but the various renditions of “Is That All There Is?” were most effective.  The black and white flickering ‘memories’ on screen proved a problem for my visually challenged companion, due to the low contrast, but overall the technology worked well.

This is a very professional production, both on stage and behind the scenes, and we thoroughly recommend it. 

Sue Beech
Elementary Whatson

If you were to die tomorrow, what memory would you like to take with you to eternity? That’s the question Jack Thorne’s 2021 play Afterlife poses. Here there is no heaven or hell. Rather a kind of technical holding station where souls go to have their most precious memories first identified then developed into a permanent form which they then take with them to the stars.
There must be many of these stations, or only a few souls who qualify, because there are only a small number who get to enjoy this privilege. These, known as the Guided, are ministered to by the staff, known as Guides, five angel-type figures in boiler suits, whose job it is to listen to their assigned clients and shape their eternal future based on their deepest most sincere moment in the past. Such choices are not necessarily the most obvious ones, and some have great difficulty finding their own key memory. But it’s part of the charm of this lovely, slow-burning and deeply poetical play that the Guides seem to really care about the future of the Guided. 
If this doesn’t sound like what one might expect from a drama, well in many ways it isn’t. There isn’t a main plot, and though there is a surprise at the end there isn’t exactly a twist. The stories within the play are more about each characters’ deepest secrets. To have achieved so much for 11 distinct characters, and to have kept us enthralled throughout, is a small miracle of writing, acting and directing.
There are some truly memorable scenes, as when Beatrice (Dawn Morris), an elderly woman who died by suicide, is given the memory of a cherished dance, brilliantly achieved by having the actor dance live on stage with her recorded image as a young woman in a red dress, played on film by Alexandra Vickers on a backdrop screen. It’s a beautifully choreographed moment and brought many a teary smile to the audience.
The Criterion’s production skilfully marries film technology with traditional acting skills. A key thread is the story of Guide Number Two (Ted McGowan), aka Charlie, who realises he once loved the woman who later became the wife of one of the newly arrived clients, Hari Markowitz (Jon Elves), and helps him to find his key memory of her. It is typical of the play’s generosity that this is an important part of the story and also the human condition which the play is, in a sense, about. What holds it together is love.
If all this sounds a bit too sentimental or philosophical, don’t worry. The play is very funny and full of great characters with interesting stories and relationships to whom we easily warm. The whole cast work well together, delivering all the seriousness and charm within a set that is both clever and unintrusive.
It is worth seeing this production more than once because it is full of subtle details that get under the skin, but which might not be observed on a single viewing. It stands out as something unusual, a serious play that treats big issues with a light touch.

Nick Le Mesurier, Warwickshire World

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