Review: AfterlifeOvertime, White Bear Theatre

Tom Kane’s ambitious AfterlifeOvertime launches his Liminal Cycle of play at the White Bear Theatre

“I make my way through this pandemonium”

You have to admire the ambition of a writer, with two programmed productions under his belt, who dreams up a whole mythology and then sets about trying to dramatise it in a play cycle. Tom Kane’s AfterlifeOvertime thus arrives here at the White Bear Theatre as the first chapter in the Liminal Cycle, a saga in the making that reimagines those stories of old with a decidedly contemporary slant.

Kane’s writing also proves to be densely poetic, something that is arresting and challenging in equal measure in a disarming opening scene. After the haunting silhouette of a child opens proceedings, Maayan Amiran’s E wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings. This hard-bitten advertising executive is understandably disarmed and unleashes a barrage of stream-of-consciousness thought that rampages across all manners of subjects.

The arrival of cab driver Cyril – still blessed with The Knowledge though it strides galaxies now – offers, if not answers, then the beginnings of a path towards them. They’re in the Afterlife, which is one of many Afterlives, and as with so much in our universe, corporatisation has crept in even to this new realm and as a headhunter waves the promise of an Executive Creative Director job title in front of her, there’s a serious pivot from the metaphysical to the macroeconomic.

Even over this limited run-time, James Barlow’s production is opaque as it attempts to set up so much about the wider world of The Liminal as well as its own challenging subject matter. Perhaps further chapters might benefit from this context having already been set, right now it feels like too much is trying to be achieved in too short a space of time. Euan J Davies’ lighting design is magnificently conceived though, finding moments of beautiful lamplost-lit elegance among the sci-fi dazzle – a great use of the black box space of the White Bear.

Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
AfterlifeOvertime is booking at the White Bear Theatre until 13th May

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