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Review of Aftermath by Daniel Bye at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

For me the inventiveness and emotional power of Aftermath was encapsulated in its opening and closing scenes. They formed the solid bread of the delightful meat within. The opening also allowed the newly emerged "Immerse" section of the R&D Youth Company to do very much that. It was a neat trick to open the play with, and I think genuinely confused a few members of the audience.

However it worked very well at drawing the audience into this tale of several characters personal lives, and their experiences of the First World War, both at home and on the front. The disillusioned youth being preached upon by the elderly was also the perfect moment for the youth and actors company to merge together. Huge credit must go to writer Daniel Bye who with wit and powerful intent has created a fine play from a collection of local stories (much as he did when I pursued him round town with an umbrella for Story Hunt last year). While at the same time shoehorning in "pop group" jokes and digs at emotion pulling Christmas ads, as well as a bawdy act of old. For the youth part, I am not sure whether they speak like this, but it feels real, especially their disinterest of the past. If its not a current status update, why indeed should they be bothered?

The post show talk on the evening revealed that most of the stories had come from the actors themselves and the play had evolved through their groups instead of writer just presenting the finished product to a cast. It gave it a more free form earthy feel, but also maybe explained the apparent episodic feel. It worked though and thanks to the vivid spectacle that director Rebecca Frecknall bought to proceedings, it looked good as well. This despite the fact that the set was generally just chairs. We were still transported into a wood of trees with chairs swaying to the breeze before being pummeled in the latest onslaught of battle. There was also the most glorious scenes depicting the posting of those wartime letters. A musical and movement piece that was a delight upon the eye.

So we traveled to France via boot and shoe factory and Racecourse barracks, and the youth of today traveled with us. We traveled together as one to that very final scene that hit with an emotional punch to the gut. A truly sad and powerful moment, that told us quite rightly to not miss the opportunity to learn these stories. We all know that our chance to listen first hand the tales of the First World War has gone, but we all still have that chance from the Second. They are still here and their story must be listened to and told. In the meantime, go and listen to this story being told. I doubt that you will regret it.


Performance reviewed: Thursday 12th February, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

Aftermath by the Royal & Derngate Actors Company and Youth Company (Immerse) runs until Saturday 14th February. Details can be found at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/Aftermath

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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