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After the Rainfall, Watford Palace Theatre

Presented by Curious Directive
Directed by Jack Lowe

Pros: Brilliantly intelligent theatre delivered with tremendous style and magnificent production values.

Cons: Slightly unclear and dry content which didn’t engage me throughout.

Our Verdict: 5 stars for the performance and the physical elements of the show, 3 stars for the content which lets it down. A magnificent company nonetheless; we’re very excited to see more of them.

Courtesy of Murdo Macleod for The Guardian

There are two things I’d like to get out of the way at the start of this review. Firstly, addressing the elephant in the room, I’m irritated with myself for not discovering Watford Palace Theatre before now. It’s great; full of character and easy to get to, only 30 minutes to the front door from Euston. And secondly, the star rating for this review has been incredibly difficult to work out. I’ve settled on three because although the show is creatively brilliant (like seriously good), the content and the subject matter was, in my opinion, a little bit confused and unclear, causing me to disengage in places. It’s a shame because Curious Directive is clearly an immensely talented group and certainly the most exciting company I’ve seen in the last year or so. So I feel like this review does them a slight disservice; but as always, we must be honest!

After the Rainfall is a beautiful tapestry of stories and perspectives on the aftermath of the British Empire. We switch between characters, dates, locations and stories over a 90-minute period. They are all separate but interrelated standpoints, from the post-colonial months before the declaration of the Egyptian Republic in 1952 to the neo-colonial use of the Egyptian Desert as a British nuclear waste facility in 2022. We even consider the comparisons between Empire and the secret life of ants! It’s extremely intelligent theatre; everything intertwines cleverly, it varies from the abstract to the clear-cut, and it is sensationally delivered on stage (I’ll talk more about this later).

Sadly however, I felt that the content lacked real substance. The aftermath of the Empire as presented by Curious Directive is an interesting topic, but it’s not a fascinating topic, and in some places the storylines and their connections to the theme were slightly unclear. This may well just have been me not getting it; I know the show has had superb reviews from other (far more esteemed!) reviewers for example, but for me it didn’t quite strike a chord and really engage me. I don’t feel the need to give any further reasoning as to why; it just didn’t, and that was a real shame for me personally because it was so brilliantly put together.

Back to the positives! The production values were tremendous. Across the board performances were strong, and the ensemble worked extremely well together throughout. There were some wonderful moments of physical theatre, in particular the characters fighting against the desert wind and the ants forming a line behind the leader. Perhaps my greatest praise for the evening though goes to the technical design team, who delivered a complex but precision perfect series of sound effects from Jo Walker, a wide-ranging array of pin-point accurate projections of John-Marc Gowan’s wonderful videos, and some magnificent lighting effects from Sherry Coenen. Jack Lowe’s production is certainly something quite special. Indeed if the content had been more to my liking then this would certainly have been a five star show.

So there we have it! A superbly put together production which sadly didn’t quite grip me enough for me to honestly say I really enjoyed it. That being said I will definitely be going to Curious Directive’s next show; they are a group to watch out for. And if I only achieved two things during the evening they would be the discovery of an exciting new company, and the discovery of a great regional London venue. That’s success enough for me!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!

After the Rainfall has now finished its run at the Watford Palace Theatre. For information about future performances or about the company, visit http://www.curiousdirective.com/

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