King’s Players Presents ‘The Afterlife of Richard Dawkins’

The age-old question of what happens after we die is finally answered, kind of. Who’d have thought it involved so much paperwork?
The Afterlife of Richard Dawkins is sharp. Sharply witty, quick and smart. The characters’ repartee, one-liners and the regular bemused or exasperated expressions that pass between them are all perfectly timed.
Richard’s interactions with Death and Jesus are highlights. I found myself waiting for Death (Peter Kandunias) to re-enter to command the stage with his quips (and all-consuming adoration for Jesus), almost as soon as he exited. George Anscombe-Bell’s Jesus likewise has a domineering presence, both in his booming voice and the swagger of showmanship he revels in.

Courtesy of Edward Smyth

Courtesy of Edward Smyth

The success of these characters is clearly a result of the well-polished script, full of humour that is specific to their unique personalities or profession; each is fresh and distinguishable. Danny Shanahan’s writing succeeds in asking all the questions you would have if you awoke to find Death, coffee in hand, blinking at you from behind a desk.
The large amount of dialogue committed to explaining the concept of this set-up of Purgatory always stops before it risks feeling overdone. Like Richard, the audience continuously has to accept the nonsensical logic that rules the well-oiled corporate machine that is Heaven – yet this is accepted with a laugh, shrug and a recognition that somehow it does make sense. Why wouldn’t Heaven need a lift operator? Why wouldn’t Hell literally be a hole in the ground prone to overcrowding? Why wouldn’t Jesus be wearing chinos and a blazer?

Courtesy of Edward Smyth

Courtesy of Edward Smyth

Emily Dickinson’s presence confused me, as she initially seemed to be a character who existed for gender balance purposes. However, in the second half of the play, she was fleshed out much more. Abi Fowler portrayed a determined, stubborn, deeply caring character abandoned by her own belief system. Her speeches see her grapple between unleashing the full force of her emotions and keeping herself in-check. It’s clear this character’s purpose is to propel the plot nearer to its end, as she gives Richard extra fuel to give God a piece of his mind. The contrast between her and the male characters is welcomed, however.
The vast majority of the emotionally charged scenes include Emily. In one, she is accompanied by Mary Magdalene as the pair watch Joan of Arc, who has lost herself in Paradise. Holly Ludlow gets Joan’s glazed-over uneasiness just right, as she aimlessly wanders the stage.

Courtesy of Edward Smyth

Courtesy of Edward Smyth

The Afterlife of Richard Dawkins grapples with big questions with skilled hands, in a comic display of the ascension to the Almighty. The occasional interjections of more serious insight are just as embraced as the hilarity. It’s like watching a re-enactment of a game of ‘Who would you invite to a dinner party?’, except with a lot more beard lice and heavenly corruption.

Courtesy of King's Players

Courtesy of King’s Players

King’s Players are performing this play again tonight (1st April) and tomorrow (2nd April). Get your tickets here: https://thekingsplayerskcl.wordpress.com/whats-on/current-productions/

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