Theatre review: After All This

An experimental cult classic premieres in Adelaide.

The publicity material for RUMPUS’s latest experimental theatre offering includes such riddles as, ‘Do you wish to be a part of the greatest kingdom in the universe (the evolutionary level above human)? Do you feel a need to be “other” than as you are?’.

If someone came knocking on your door with inquiries like these, you’d probably turn them away. As part of an invitation to experience the mystery-shrouded South Australian premiere of After All This, however, they are undeniably intriguing. First performed in 2012 by Melbourne-based company Elbow Room, this aptly dubbed ‘cult classic’ fills its one-hour runtime with questions aplenty, but few answers.

Uncertainty being the rule of the evening, everyone is on guard as they sip their pre-show drinks, knowing the performance has probably already begun, with the actors likely already among us (no cast list is ever provided). Audience chatter quietens as two performers emerge from the crowd to lead everyone in a spooky sing-along while arranging a space in the foyer for the first scene.

Preparations complete, they announce that they are a young boy and girl about to star in their church’s nativity play. In the short dialogue that ensues, the two raise some potentially interesting questions about the logic and morality of belief. The scene is over in a matter of minutes, however, and we are asked to move to the next location.

For Act Two, we are all gathered in a hallway. After a well-played transition from bickering audience members to performers, the next two actors (recognisable as director Nate Troisi and excellent RUMPUS regular Kidaan Zelleke) step forward. Beneath a banner bearing an impenetrable-looking equation, they recount a garbled version of the story (actually quite fascinating, as some post-show Wikipedia research reveals) of mathematician George R. Price, who developed a formula demonstrating the evolutionary explanation for altruism, before converting to Christianity and devoting his life to helping the homeless. Zelleke and Troisi are an engaging duo, but the attempted religion-versus-science debate feels caricatural and underdeveloped.

Walking beneath twinkly lights to the sound of Talking Heads singing, ‘Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens’, we file into the final room. In this third act – the longest and most thought-provoking of the three – we are confronted by a row of eight cast members who don matching tracksuits (one of many references to the 1997 Heaven’s Gate incident). Together, cheerfully interrupting each other and finishing each other’s sentences, they explain their decision to leave behind their earthly bodies in order to attain a higher spiritual existence. This insight into religious cult groupthink reaches its grim denouement in a cleverly lighted final sequence. 

Read: Theatre review: SLUTNIK™

With After All This, RUMPUS has once again given us an ambitious work that showcases strong local talent. In the end, it was the moments that went beyond spiritual gimmickry to dig deeper into the show’s themes that were most memorable. 

After All This
, South Australia
Director: Nate Troisi
Producer: Caitlin Ellen Moore

Tickets: $28

After All this will be performed until 16 October 2022.

Megan Koch is a writer and bookseller based in Adelaide. She studied English and Applied Linguistics at Flinders University.