Review: AFTER ALL (Assembly @ Dance Base)
A show about death that is as silly as it is sombre
The Edinburgh Fringe is full of multidisciplined over-promisers. Often when a show’s description is packed with subgenres and gimmicks it is likely to do all of them poorly and none of them organically. Solène Weinachter’s AFTER ALL sounds like a prime example of a performer who promises to meld comedy, dance, storytelling and theatre but is actually only committed to one. But for Weinachter talking about death is not just an opportunity to squeeze these genres in – it is as though she had to use them all, as though none would be sufficient on their own.
The appeal of the show is less about the concept and more about the performer behind it. Weinachter, blending stand-up style jokes and sincere storytelling in her French accent, exhibits both charisma and vulnerability. She uses her theatrical instincts – a desire to entertain, a need to communicate – as a metaphor for how she feels about death and the difficulty of expressing herself. But whatever the material, she proves that she is someone who cannot help but perform. When she dances not only does it look effortless, it looks uncontrollable, as though it is pouring out from her. She exhibits a childlike glee that acts as the bodily epitome of how she “loves beginnings and hates endings”.
Photo Credit: Genevieve Reeves
But not all of her ideas are successful. At one point she tells us that she wants to embed herself in our brain so that her memory will live on after she dies – and to do so she performs an eccentric dance in the sparkliest outfit I have ever seen. It is an entertaining segment, but it is hard to say it is truly memorable in the wildly overstimulating theatrically landscape of the Edinburgh Fringe. But at other times she surprises you, like when she breaks into a guttural scream that in the moment feels overly long until you realise its significance as a space to hold grief. In that sense it is hard not to compare it to Funeral, Ontroerend Goed’s immersive performance at Zoo Southside that acts as a cosmic funeral onto which the audience can project their own grief. AFTER ALL is not Funeral – it has far too much personality. But this is far from a flaw. Weinachter’s performance – its variety, its quirkiness, its character – shows that trying to summarise death is as easy as summarising life. Moreover, you would be hard-pushed to find someone who had more talent or more passion for the material than Weinachter.
There’s a bittersweet ending to AFTER ALL. Weinachter sets up the show to end with a ceremonial bashing of a stick – but she can’t stop herself from interrupting it and dragging out her time on the stage until the very last second. It encompasses much of what the show is about – trying to make peace with the idea of dying, but at the same time fearing it, resisting it, and trying desperately to feel like your life “meant something”. AFTER ALL is a sophisticated stew of conflicting feelings, brimming with personality that makes it less generic and utterly unresolvable. Four stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: "It was very unexpected, I loved the humour and storytelling. I went to a funeral this morning, so it was a lovely release."
AFTER ALL has completed its run at Assembly @ Dance Base