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Review: After the Ball, at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Billed as a play about female liberation, Ian Grant’s ambitious narrative follows the lives of a couple whose romance is tested by war

15 March, 2018 — By Billie Manning

Julia Watson and Stuart Fox in After the Ball. Photo: Mitzi De Margary

IAN Grant’s After the Ball explores a rapidly changing world and the values and ideals of the people within it.

The non-chronological narrative follows the lives of William (Stuart Fox) and Blanche Randall (Julia Watson), from their courtship just before the outbreak of the First World War, until their old age 60 years later.

Although billed as a play about female liberation, and deliberately opening on International Women’s Day in the centenary year of the first votes for women, the play focuses more on William’s experiences at the cost of the female characters as he goes from a passionate, idealistic young man to a harsh ex-soldier.

Emily Tucker as Joyce

Blanche ends up as a caricature of a bitter, spurned wife and William’s Belgian lover Marguerite (Elizabeth Healey), whom he meets during the war, is not fleshed out beyond “love interest”. A high point, however, is Emily Tucker, who adds charm to the production as William and Blanche’s energetic, likeable daughter Joyce.

The scope of the play is huge and ambitious, but like William, unable to live up to his socialist ideals, it doesn’t quite manage to fill its own shoes.

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