After What Comes Before

Sun 4th – Sat 24th August 2013


Lise McNally

at 02:22 on 20th Aug 2013



‘After What Comes Before’ is the perfect embodiment of a mad scientist: bold, bonkers, and brilliant. A collaborative devised piece which fizzes with energy, Manic Chord Theatre have created a show which is simultaneously fearless, frightening, and hysterically funny.

Ignore the blurb—it doesn’t do anything like justice to this innovative production. Although seemingly treading on familiar dystopian ground (obsessive scientist seeks to probe the human brain and goes too far), the play is a masterful concoction of dark psychological themes, dazzling physical theatre, and razor-sharp wit; the result is truly explosive.

The scripting is rhythmic and powerful, with a kind of mad poetry of its own. The said Scientist drafts in two colleagues to work on his new scheme, and their wildly differing characters give rise to a host of dazzlingly witty verbal ripostes. Whilst it is true that the thrust of the plot sometimes gets lost amidst the staccato arrangement of these exchanges - which are almost comedy sketches in their own right - the disorientating affect aids the play’s power, rather than hinders it.

The chemistry between the three performers is a true joy to behold, literally bouncing off each other like accelerated particles. David Cartwright’s Physicist and Sam Berrill’s Neuroscientist are a hilarious double act of Monty Pythonesque spirit; while collapsing in a shared joke or gleefully struggling to free themselves after they’ve glued their hands together, the two portray a frantic friendship which works intriguingly against the solitary power and dangerous charm of Alex Monk’s Psychologist. Each performance could justifiably be said to take the star turn. Monk’s attention to physical detail is exquisite, demonstrating in multiple mannerisms the emergence of a compulsive perfectionism and dangerous rationalism. Cartwright’s hapless naivety has a bewitching Mad Hatter like charm, and Berrill’s verbal performance is highly articulate and engaging, his character reeling off a set of verbal associations before he is able to connect two words of his planned sentence, with all the antic unease of genius.

If the actors give it their all, the set gives it right back. Helen Russell Brown has created a wonderfully clever space in which equation-covered blackboards unfold, open, or reverse in numerous possibilities - serving as an apt metaphor for the unpredictable nature of what the scribblings on the blackboards might give rise to. Sound and lighting displays work brilliantly in this monochrome space, as neon blue and pink lights, rave music, and thudding heartbeats turn the stage’s once-ordered rationality into gorgeous chaos.

This show offers a real glut for the eye, the mind, and the funny bone. The limits and definitions of sanity are expertly probed with sensitivity, humour and original staging. You’d have to be mad to miss it.


Mona Damian

at 09:50 on 20th Aug 2013



Manic Chord Theatre’s production leaves its audience with an unforgettable experience. We are treated to a stunning performance where the dark material of ‘Brave New World’ and ‘1984’ meets with the hilarity of ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’. In a highly imaginative production, scientific zeal and discovery are taken under a microscope and the worth of the flawed human condition is threatened by pure perfection.

The intense presence of Alex Monk, there to welcome audience members as they take their seats, captivates from the get go and appropriately introduces Monk’s commendable performance in the role of the Psychologist. The sheer energy that Monk brings to the stage, and the cunning with which he portrays his intense and morally complex character, is fantastic to see. It is a feat to bring a role that incorporates childish excitement with a scientist’s curiosity, as well as a menacing overconfidence and disregard for human morals so flawlessly to life.

Monk is supported by the strong performance of David Cartwright as the Physicist and Sam Berrill, who portrays the Neurologist to great effect. The initial interaction between Monk’s and Cartwright’s character is fantastic to watch. The two seem to bounce off one another effortlessly, both literally and through slick dialogue. Yet the vibrant script is showcased nowhere more than on the tongue of Berrill. The Neurologist’s insistence to demonstrate thought connections is a mesmerising demonstration of just how powerful a quick tongue and a slick pen can be.

The script is incredibly witty and at times very touching. Cartwright’s final monologue immediately springs to mind as an unforgettable moment. His heart wrenching exclamation that he must be allowed to embrace his flaws and “jitter” in order to “glitter” as well as his apt question “Who wants a balanced personality anyway?” cuts right to the core of the plot and the audience’s heart.

The set too cannot help but make an impact. What appears merely cool and intriguing to start with soon transpires to be an essential tool that allows the three man cast to capture our imagination from every stage angle possible. Some adventurous but spot-on lighting decisions serve well to perfect certain more ‘out of this world’ scenes.

'After What Comes Before' is a must see production: a brilliant display of talented acting and scriptwriting accompanied by some seriously dark humour that throws up deep food for thought on the time old question of what it means to be human.


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