“Then, Now & Next” presents a heartfelt exploration of life’s journey, encapsulating moments of joy, sorrow, and personal transformation. While it doesn’t fully delve into the depths of grief, it offers a touching portrayal of resilience and the healing power of time. With a talented cast and some delightful moments, this musical leaves a lasting impression and reminds the audience to reflect their own emotions as well.
“Then, Now & Next” at Southwark Playhouse Theatre offers a poignant, heartwarming view of one woman’s life journey. Written by Christopher J Orton and Jon Robyns, this musical takes us through the ups and downs of Alex Shaw’s (Alice Fearn) life, from then to now to the next. With a cast of five, the show explores themes of personal growth, resilience, loss, and the passage of time.
Alice Fearn, a powerhouse performer known for her role in the West End’s “Come From Away,” delivers a commanding performance. Even on a smaller, more intimate stage, she captivated the audience with every note, whether with a powerful ballad or a romantic tune.
Fearn’s natural presence was felt throughout the entire show, and her nuanced performance portrayed a range of emotions, from joy to sorrow, with authenticity.
An emotional mini-rollercoaster that will leave you reflecting on life’s precious moments
The show creates a realistic portrayal of post-loss emotions, although it never fully delves into the depths of sadness and grief. Instead, it takes a lighter, more comedic approach, presenting the audience with a whirlwind of time and places. The story tries to dip a toe in the heavier side of sadness and longing for someone, but doesn’t take a full dive to explore the depth of those emotions. The songs and dialogue miss some of the emotional depth required to truly understand and connect with Alex’s pain.
Balancing between moments of comedy and intense emotion
Peter Hannah, portraying Peter, delivered the best-written lines in the show. To a weird puns connoisseur like myself, a random movie quote now and then was like finding your favourite Celebrations chocolate in a box – expected, yet still so heartwarming. One particular gem occured in a scene when the Alex gets fired from her job, and a corporate gibberish statement is beautifully interrupted by a set of awkward magic tricks by a waiter-magician. It’s a short scene, but it elicits laughter and adds depth to the overall emotional balance of the show.
Joaquin Pedro Valdes injects his portrayal of Stephen with magnetic charisma, infectious enthusiasm, and an irresistible sense of spontaneity. He seems like the most adult hero of the story – and when his hero has to make a difficult decision about potentially moving back to the States, I believed his calm, rational reasoning completely. Valdes and Hannah both showcased their remarkable vocal talents, harmonising flawlessly in a captivating duet that beautifully conveyed their affection for Alex in the second act.
Tori Allen-Martin (Woman) added an authentic touch of humour to the show, even if sometimes she came dangerously close to the line that’s drawn at “that’s just too much”. She portrayed an array of completely different characters with ease – from a tipsy girl at a party to a full-on corporate HR lady.
A Subtle Palette of Then, Now & Next
The stage set, predominantly in white, with various items hanging on a plain white wall, creates a visual expectation of a happy ending. However, the story remains pleasantly white-ish, with occasional splashes of colour, like a yellow scarf that pops up now and then. These visual cues hint at a brighter outcome, but the narrative takes a slightly longer path towards it.
About the show:
Then, now & Next
Director: Julie Atherton
Writers: Jon Robyns, Christopher J Orton
At Southwark Playhouse Borough until 29 July
Running Time: 120 minutes including an interval.