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In a cavernous corner of the Dragonfly Brewery in Acton, London, Franz Schubert ponders life, death and music. It’s not the first place you’d imagine finding the famous Austrian composer nearly 200 years since his demise. And yet in After Party musical theatre company Re:Sound manage to bring the ghosts of Viennese past alive and before our very eyes in style, all amongst the hustle and bustle of a modern English pub.
We’re all invited to join in on the fun – there’s a limericks game, an old fashioned game of copycat and, of course, song sheets are passed around to be sung along to. For what would a Schubertiade follow up be without a few songs?
Set in October 1820, After Party faintly follows the fateful evening Schubert and chums joined together in a Viennese drinking establishment set on celebrating love, art and freedom. Before the evening had ended, the close knit group were arrested by the Austrian secret police, never to meet again.
As is fitting for a post Schubertiade party (a gathering held after another party to celebrate Schubert and his music – this guy was popular) there is a lot of merriment to be had. Whilst Schubert (Jonathan Ainscough) struggles with his soul, his friends Mayerhofer (Rebecca Lea), Vogl (Oskar McCarthy) and Senn (Eloise Irving) just want to drink and live life to the fullest, if being a little pretentious whilst they do it.
We’re all invited to join in on the fun – there’s a limericks game, an old fashioned game of copycat and, of course, song sheets are passed around to be sung along to. For what would a Schubertiade follow up be without a few songs? The cast leap into each rendition with great enthusiasm, and in keeping with the setting, sing in German, although the audience are allowed a little more leeway, with the translations provided. There’s no doubt of the musical aptitude of the cast too, as at times, piano, violin, horn and even harp are interchangeably played with gusto and soprano notes hit with ease.
The setting of the Dragonfly only enhances this feeling of being invited to a secret party, as we huddle in chairs around the centre performers beneath the wooden beams of this former 17th-century coaching inn. Normal punters pass bemusedly in and out by the performance, and whilst this adds to the occasion it might be wise to find a space that allows punter and performers to exist harmoniously, especially when they get louder as the evening progresses. However, give or take a few rowdier customers in the background who at times may have been one movement short of a sonata, in general the audience remained too captivated by our protagonist and friends’ antics to care.
Jonathan Ainscough draws this attention as only someone who looks scarily like the spitting image of Schubert can, taking us into the dark shades of genius whilst lively performances such as Lea’s Mayerhofer provide the light. In a relatively short space of time we’re transported through scenes from Vienna’s desperate days, into a story and performance you’ll feel compelled to raise a glass to.