After all: grief reload

There may be a musical sequence to express any kind of feelings: happiness, sadness, anger, excitement. Being humans all different, if the right tune is not out there already, we are capable of producing it ourselves, and likely to go through a cathartic process in the making. That’s what Alex – protagonist of After All - has experienced after his brother’s death, as he discovered and tried music therapy. The last resource he recurred to in order to cope with grief, it proved not only good for bereavement, but it enabled him to communicate his story more openly.

Raw material in the form of notes and acting: Michael Brazil, the artist behind this one-man show, experiments with diverse storytelling techniques to accompany the audience through Alex’s journey of depression and healing. The 45 minutes performance at the Actors Centre this April is the latest product of a work in progress, aiming at a one-hour long production and possibly a complete musical.

The content comes from a mix of personal experiences, research, and stories of friends and family members, all combined in the life of Alex, who accompanied his brother to a clinic for assisted dying and then had to face the challenging reality of solitude and depression. The protagonist unexpectedly and gradually found solace in musical instruments. Actually, the simple beating of a drum stroke the eureka moment. It is interesting how Michael builds up his theatre piece around this point, like gently taking the theatregoers by hand to rediscover with him how the resounding of just a single note can release that longed feeling of relief.

The route the audience is invited to is not very cheerful, be warned. There is a pause from the melancholy reflection in an uplifting bucket list where a small break of the forth wall allows the people in the room to take part in the act as well. But more humour scattered along the way would be greatly beneficial. However, the authenticity and unprocessed form in which the story is presented reveal the strong desire to share and prompt open discussions about personal difficulties and sad emotions. To make this story more accessible, the method chosen is music, the universal language. On stage, Michael embraces autoharp, zither, ukulele, a drum, producing simple musical patterns to lead the narration.

There is need of more and more voices to speak about mental health and to remind how arts can provide a valuable support and means of communication. A show like After All, which viscerally combines the two, is highly welcomed. With some months ahead to get ready, there is to be looking forward to Brazil’s performance at the PBH’s Edinburgh Free Fringe Festival 2019.

Dates: 5-6 April 2019

Thanks to Michael Brazil and Theatre Bloggers for the invite.