The perfect heterosexual couple living a monogamous married life together provides the basis for many a film, book and TV drama. To quote Wilfred Owen feeding us “the old lie”. That’s not to say harmonious straight couples don’t exist, but as S Asher Gelman’s play Afterglow demonstrates, there’s more than one reality out there, writes Carolyn Hart Taylor. 

What if the couple, Alex, (Peter McPherson) and Josh, (Adi Chugh) are gay, married and both agree to a third man, Darius, (Benjamin Aluwihare), entering the relationship and having sex with them? Shock and intrigue alone may lead you to book tickets to see how this scenario plays out – and sleazy it isn’t! Gelman has taken a subject that society finds uncomfortable and presented it so that we see characters as multi- dimensional; in a word, ‘real’. That is the outcome of both good writing and acting. 

At moments the three are passionate, impulsive, playful and flirty, then suddenly tired, grouchy and emotionally under threat. Audiences may begin to understand that this is more than three men seizing the opportunities of youth – there’s the daunting realisation that this pact comes with consequences. Physical and emotional intimacy can lead to love that’s complicated. 

Further down the line, Alex acknowledges he cannot provide Josh with the level of emotional attention he needs, so his agreement to Josh and Darius continuing to see each other seems in keeping with their liberated outlook. Later, brokenhearted Alex declares, “It was an experiment that didn’t achieve the required results and I need you to end it,” we hear his pain and see the trio’s vulnerability to the human condition we’ve all encountered: love, jealousy, lies, secrecy and broken hearts. 

Thumping club music and slick choreographed set changes work in tandem with the visceral energy of the men’s relationship – Life is happening no matter what. Without censorship audiences see full nudity and simulated shower sex scenes. A nod, perhaps, to the many thousands of heterosexual shower scenes. 

It is no coincidence Afterglow has become a long running show both here and in New York as it goes beyond the hysteria and hooks you in. An absolute must see. 

Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, SE1 8TN until 24th November. Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm; weekend matinees at 4.00pm. Admission: £20 – £30.

Phone: 020 7928 0060 

www.afterglowtheplay.co.uk