REVIEW ROUND-UP: After Life at the National Theatre

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We round up the reviews for Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film of the same name now playing at the National Theatre.

Evening Standard: ★★★ “Herrin’s staging, a co-production with Headlong, is fluent and pleasing. It just feels a bit light, a bit airy-fairy, a bit meh, frankly, for these times and for the reopening of one of our major cultural institutions.”

The Guardian: ★★★ “There are sparks of brilliance in Jeremy Herrin’s staging – spelling out the days of the week as we flip through the calendar with increasing creativity, climbing out of the floor as if by magic – but overall, it’s far gentler, and perhaps more strait-laced, than you might expect from Headlong.”

Time Out: ★★★★★ “Although it’s underpinned by gently absurdist humour, After Life is a moving and serious consideration of what constitutes a life. It’s important to stress that this remains Kore-eda’s vision: the premise was entirely his, and while Thorne has tweaked a lot of details, the shape of the plot is roughly the same. But it is a beautiful and sympathetic adaptation, filled with care and bittersweet reflection. Inevitably, part of its power is that it makes you contemplate what you would take with you.”

A Younger Theatre: ★★★★★ “It’s hard to experience After Life without feeling changed in some way – wrapping one’s head around the finality of death as these truly interest people make the ultimate journey.”

Variety.com: “Rather than an overly impressive riot of special effects, this is consciously hand-made theatre. But too little of it is fully resonant, because we cannot fully engage with told, but unfelt, tales.”

The Telegraph: ★★★ “The return of the NT is a cause for celebration, even if Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Kirokazu Kore-eda’s film isn’t as rich as hoped.”

Culture Whisper: ★★★★ “It’s a slow-paced, beautiful and bittersweet musing on what happens when we die, explored through the playful fantasy that on passing, we’re given a final important decision to make.”

London Theatre.co.uk: ★★★ “After a year of so much grief and loss, it also feels particularly loaded and wrought to reflect on what the world might hold for us and our loved ones after our final breath and even in the moments we share here, and After Life does offer a kind of peace and resolution that these small interactions are what’s been important the whole time. However, I’m just not sure how much comfort can be given when so many things are left unsaid and questions are left unanswered.”

iNews: ★★★★ “Kore-eda’s movie paints its shattering emotions and profound existential ideas from a delicate, muted palette. This version is more highly coloured, yet still subtle and slippery, gently haunting the imagination”

The Arts Desk: ★★★★ “Jeremy Herrin’s production is delivered with Headlong’s trademark inventiveness, designed by Bunny Christie and lit by Neil Austin with impressive set pieces and coups de theatre. (I especially loved the spaceman who suddenly drifts along the back wall, like an escapee from a Robert Lepage piece.) At the end of the Guideds’ allotted week, the Guides’ montage of their re-created moments makes indeed for a memorable display.”

Broadway World: ★★★★ “The result is not necessarily a profound meditation on all things life and death, but it is bound to strike a chord as a moving exploration of what qualifies as a moment worth living for – over and over again.”

The Upcoming: ★★★★ “Interestingly, the original Japanese title of the film was Wonderful Life, and Jack Thorne’s script evokes this sentiment beautifully: the impetus isn’t in what’s “after” but on what was “wonderful”, the reflective and bittersweet sensation of identifying when one was happiest, and reliving those tantalising moments. Under Jeremy Herrin’s sensitive direction, the stage swells with life-filled tableaux – laughter, dance, longing, love.”

The Reviews Hub: ★★★★ “After Life is certainly worthwhile and ensures that the National Theatre’s return is a memorable one.”

The Times: ★★★★ “After months in darkness, the National Theatre has reopened its doors with a piece that suits the mood of these very strange times.”

Theatrevibe.co.uk: “I suspect that devotees of Japanese culture and film will get more out of this play than I did.”

After Life continues to play at the National Theatre until 7 August 2021.

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Emma Clarendon
Emma Clarendon studied drama through A-Level before deciding she was much better suited to writing about theatre than appearing onstage. She’s written for a number of online publications ever since, including The News Hub and Art Info. Emma set up her own blog, Love London Love Culture, in April 2015 and tweets at LoveLDNLoveCul.
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Emma Clarendon on FacebookEmma Clarendon on InstagramEmma Clarendon on RssEmma Clarendon on Twitter
Emma Clarendon
Emma Clarendon studied drama through A-Level before deciding she was much better suited to writing about theatre than appearing onstage. She’s written for a number of online publications ever since, including The News Hub and Art Info. Emma set up her own blog, Love London Love Culture, in April 2015 and tweets at LoveLDNLoveCul.

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