REVIEW: AFTER THE BLUE (Jermyn Street Theatre)

Two sisters inhabit a house near a Cornish seaside town. Lauren is in her 20s, Ursy is 14. Their stepfather Bob disappeared over a year ago and now their stepmother Heather has been missing for three weeks. Neither of them seems very worried about her disappearance. Instead they are looking forward to the visit of their cousin Lucas. When Gene O’Brien, the local police officer, stops by to ask Lauren a few questions, Ursy taunts him with sexual innuendos. O’Brien is appalled by her behaviour but his interest in Lauren has a sinister quality to it and appears to be far more than only professional. Although Lauren doesn’t show the least enthusiasm, he indicates that he might actually marry her “to make things easier for Lauren”. Ursy laughs about the mere idea. But Lauren is hiding a dark secret that might ruin their lives if it ever came to light. O’Brien soon solves the mystery and consequently succeeds in blackmailing Lauren to become his wife although she deeply loves Lucas. Trapped in a joyless life with the patriarchal narrow-minded O’Brien, Lauren yearns for her freedom.

Natalie Stan’s new play is about sexual child abuse but it actually focuses on love and freedom. Lauren was continuously abused by her alcoholic stepfather from the age of 13. When Ursy began attract Bob’s attention, Lauren had to act. Since Bob’s disappearance, they have been living a free and happy life. Lauren works as a singer in a club and Ursy is still going to school but is quickly growing up. They paint their walls a different colour for every new season, and nobody tells them this is the wrong thing to do. Once Lauren is married to O’Brien, he locks her up in his narrow-minded, unchanging world expecting her to love him and be content with the life he forces unto her. Lauren withers away in O’Brien’s prison but she accepts her fate to protect the people she loves.

This intense production is skilfully directed by Charles Savage and benefits from a strong cast and a beautiful musical score by Guy Farley which has a mystical and haunting quality, with a touch of Claude Debussy. Eloise Oliver is touching as the stunning and gifted Lauren who sacrifices herself. Nichole Bird impresses as the spirited Ursy. Alastair Natkiel gives a strong performance as Gene O’Brien, a man so limited in his ideas that he is unlikely to go far in his life or his career. Alex Walton is very good as Lucas, a free spirit and the polar opposite of Gene who has the urge to control everybody.

Reviewed by: Carolin Kopplin

After the Blue is playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 23 January 

Not suitable for under 12
This Play includes references to and scenes of a sexual or violent nature.
Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including an interval