Then, Now & Next

This is the best new piece of musical theatre I’ve seen in a long time"

Then, Now & Next is a fantastic brand new British musical written by Christopher J Orton and Jon Robyns. Making its world premier at Southwark Playhouse Borough this week it is clearly a show destined for a big future. The small space is wonderfully designed in the round giving us many different angles and perspectives of the outstanding acting taking place before us.

The role of Alex, a woman who’s life we follow from her Then, to the Now and onto her Next, is masterfully played by Alice Fern. Alice is one of the greatest performers you will ever see, she has the ability to flex in her emotions giving us everything she’s got. Her talent is unbounded with a powerful voice which leaves me awe-struck and she absolutely shines in this role.

As we journey with Alex we meet first loves, last loves, and some in-between. We experience grief along with her, we are sharing in the moments of joy in her life also. Clever set design from Bob Sterrett uses the versatility of the space incredibly well. Every piece has been thought of and adds to the storytelling.

The main loves in Alex’s life are played by Joaquin Pedro Valdes and Peter Hannah who do marvellously in their roles. Joaquin plays Stephen, the ‘Then', Alex’s first (and maybe true) love. With a youthful energy Joaquin excels in this role, bringing a warm charm to the character and an incredible voice which at times takes your breath away. Peter Hannah portrays Alex’s 2nd love ‘Peter’, her Now. It’s a relationship of stability and responsibilities. Peter is wonderful here, bringing the awkward but lovable character to life – it’s magical to watch!

Tori Allen-Martin and Justin Brett make up the remainder of this cast, playing the roles of ‘Woman’ and ‘Man’ respectively. They both really flex their acting muscles here, each showing us what wonderful character actors they are with the ability to play multiple roles perfectly. Tori is hysterical as 'Party Girl Tara’ bringing tears to my eyes from laughing. Justin is wonderful as ‘Man in Churchyard’ reminding us with such warmth that sometimes feeling ‘fine, is just fine’.

The songs really are the stars of this show, they show a clear understanding of musical theatre from the writers. Each moving the story and giving us a deeper insight to each character and their feelings in the moment. There is no song that doesn’t belong here, they flow perfectly and enhance what is a beautiful story of grief, trauma, growth and what it means to be happy.

This is the best new piece of musical theatre I’ve seen in a long time. It’s powerful, through provoking and life changing. If you’re looking for a wonderful piece of new writing THEN book this show NOW and make it your NEXT theatre trip!

This show was reviewed on the 30th June 2023.  Then, Now & Next runs at the Southwark Playhouse, Borough until the 29th July 2023.  Tickets available here: Then, Now & Next - Southwark Playhouse

Review written by Rosie Browne

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Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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