After All These Years review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: L to R – Graham Pountney, Judy Buxton, Jeffrey Holland, Carol Ball in After All These Years, Theatre at the Tabard

Review by Bridget Osborne

Theatre at the Tabard Wednesday 9 – Saturday 24 February

After All These Years is a play that will resonate with people who have been married a long time. Who, in the course of a thirty or forty year marriage, has not come to that stick or twist moment – the point where they think:

‘Is this it? Is this really all there is? Should I leave and find a more exciting life? Or maybe I should stay put, maybe I would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Maybe, for all the minor frustrations and irritations, this marriage is good enough.’

Image above: Act One – Two old guys in the pub

What starts as a very funny dialogue between two older men in a pub, the daily banter of two old friends who have known each other for years, working in showbusiness together with their wives who were both chorus girls, turns darker in the second act where the two women get together to compare notes, and even more so in the last act when they all come together two years later after the dynamics have changed.

Image above: The two wives – Act Two

Jeffrey Holland is particularly good as Alfred – the one of the four who is most showing the signs of age. As the play begins, he is agitated because he has spent the past day and a half trying to remember the name of a TV weatherman.

His mate winds him up, in the guise of trying to help, and it transpires his wife had known straight away what the presenter was called but had just preferred to let him stew. Such are the petty provocations of long relationships.

The play, by Giles Cole, is set about twenty years ago, before everyone started to be on their phones all the time and memory became obsolete. As Alf searches for the words he wants to use, with evident frustration, it’s hard not to shout out the answer, to put him out of his misery.

Images above: Marianne; Alfred

His mate Charlie (Graham Pountney) is a bit of a weasel. Jovial and affable as he appears at first sight, he’s not quite the supportive friend he would have you believe, while Alf’s beloved Joanie (Judy Buxton) is also a bit suspect.

It is Marianne (Carol Ball), who at first appears lost in a haze of white wine and gin, who has the courage to make waves and change the dynamic of this comfortable foursome.

Image above: Jeffrey Holland and Carol Ball

It’s good to see such accomplished actors in close proximity. The Tabard is nothing if not snug.

Jeffrey Holland is probably still best known for his TV appearances as Spike in Hi-De-Hi and James Twelvetrees in You Rang M’Lord, though he has appeared in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Dad’s Army, Are You Being Served and The Mayor of Casterbridge on TV and more recently presented his own one man show about Stan Laurel, which played three sell-out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe. He is also one of the country’s leading pantomime dames, having appeared in over 40 pantomimes.

Judy Buxton is also a very well-known face from her television appearances in Lovejoy, Bergerac, Blake’s Seven, Diary of a Nobody and Rising Damp, though she is also known for a number of Shakespeare roles in theatre – Juliet in Romeo & Juliet for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, as well as roles in West End productions such as Baggage, The School for Scandal, Run for your Wife and The Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

Image above: Graham Pountney and Judy Buxton

Graham Pountney has worked in the West End as well as in rep in the UK and on international tours, as an actor, direct and producer. He is the director of After All These Years as well as playing the character of Charlie. He founded the British Actors Theatre Company in the late 1980s with Kate O’Mara and was a founder and director of The Original Shakespeare Company in the 1990s. He has recently started his own theatre company, Theatre Revival. His popular TV credits as an actor include Howard’s Way, Life Begins, New Tricks and Hustle.

Carol Ball really is a chorus girl. In the West End she appeared in the original productions of Chicago, Hello Dolly! and more recently Guys and Dolls, The Goodbye Girl and Thoroughly Modern Millie, as well as playing Anytime Annie for five years in 42nd Street. Her TV credits include The Bill, The Trip, Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, and she also appeared in two Ken Russell films: The Boyfriend and Valentino.

The play won the Outstanding Theatre award at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2013. It runs until Saturday 24 February.

Image above: Judy Buxton and Carol Ball

Photography by Charles Flint.

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