Remembrance of issues previous isn’t just a preoccupation of Proust. From King Lear’s terrifying worry of dropping his thoughts to Pinter’s interlocked threesome in “Old Times” hotly contesting what every of them remembers, reminiscence has been the well-spring of many a play. But within the National Theatre’s stage adaptation of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 1998 movie “After Life,” reminiscence isn’t just one factor, it’s the be-all and, fairly actually, the end-all.
Memory is all that a number of of this story’s characters even have since, as Kevin McMonagle’s nearly jaunty opening handle places it: “Yesterday, you passed away. I’m sorry for your loss.” Having died, these arrivals meet 5 formally dressed, unnamed “guides” on Bunny Christie’s environment friendly, bureaucratic set with a again wall of floor-to-ceiling submitting cupboards. These individuals are in neither heaven nor hell, however moderately in one thing between limbo and an enormous ready room.
The newly useless stay right here for every week, not for judgement however for the time it takes them to pick out a second from their life and, on the finish of the week, have it offered again to them. It is that this second that they are going to take with them as their state of being wherein to stay for eternity.
They are led to their selection by the guides, and, selecting up from the unique screenplay, Jack Thorne’s script and Jeremy Herrin’s manufacturing edits collectively the ideas, doubts, fears and, finally, the alternatives of the characters.
Each character, as could be anticipated, react in a different way not solely to their new and momentary place of keep, but additionally to the need of selecting one second to, because it have been, stay by. The most totally realized of these is the one belonging to anxious, aged Beatrice, fantastically performed with fierce defensiveness by June Watson. In her last days Beatrice, having by no means married, had nobody to take care of however her cat — about whom she is desperately anxious. In this, essentially the most atmospheric and simply the most effective acted story, we uncover her love for the brother with whom she used to go dancing. But what initially looks like a sentimental attachment grows a lot darker as she tells most of her story.
Yet it’s exactly that telling which is on the coronary heart of the present’s downside. The thought of electing a single illuminating second is fascinating, however collectively they really feel like present’n’inform as a result of they’re not embedded in growing drama or battle. And being so overtly said, there’s no subtext or anything for the viewers to grip and glean. Despite the impressively deft efforts of Herrin’s skilled, finely meshed inventive group, there are lengthy expanses of exposition and little pressure and launch, thus creating an inert environment.
The exception is the dealing with of the late reveal of the true character of Guide Two, performed with aplomb by Luke Thallon. Having shone with power in Rebecca Frecknall’s “Nine Lessons and Carols” on the Almeida and quietly stolen the appearing honors within the disappointingly flaccid “Leopoldstadt,” the 25-year-old Thallon but once more unobtrusively reveals himself as a significant expertise. With fantastically judged restraint, he brings depth to a massively compromised character.
Ironically, the subtlety of his work reveals up a few of the extra unexpectedly pedestrian performances round him. And even Thallon can’t raise the extra portentous components of the script, which descends into on-the-nose aphorisms about selection and which means.
Even the ultimate visualizations of the characters’ chosen moments are solely partially profitable. In protecting with the type of the movie, Herrin and his group go for the facility of simplicity. Rather than a very spectacular riot of particular results, that is consciously hand-made theater. But too little of it’s totally resonant, as a result of we can’t totally have interaction with advised, however unfelt, tales.