In the Actors Centre, a fringe theatre venue in Leicester Square, a select audience witnessed the first full staging of After All, Alex’s Music Therapy Show. In this one-man musical performance, Alex talks us through his very personal experience of supporting his terminally ill brother with assisted suicide. Unable to process the ordeal, he eventually manages to find emotional release in Musical Therapy.
After All is a fitting title. After all the upheaval and suffering that pain causes, what is it all for? Why does it appear to senselessly target some more than others and for all the advances in modern society, why aren’t we better equipped to navigate the turbulent adverse effects it has on mental health? I think this topic is ripe for exploration and that the show is full of promise, if not quite fully formed yet.
The show is created and performed by Michael Brazil. Following the loss of both his parents and brother combined with the milestone birthday of turning 50, Michael sunk into a deep depression. After exploring various methods of support, Michael turned to music and this very raw material inspired the creation of the show.
At the start, we are warned that the production is a work in progress. Through these original songs, we are taken along from when Alex first learns about his brother’s terminal diagnosis to travelling to Zurich for the final procedure. It’s clear from the performance that the story is drawn from a place of real distress and anguish.
Alex’s scene partners are the unique selection of instruments he alternates between playing including a ukulele, an autoharp and drum. The songs aren’t structured as such and in this carnation, feels reminiscent of someone who’s picked up the various instruments for the first time and is exploring the different notes. But through this, the music is used as a medium to create contrasting moods and communicate Alex’s feelings; the ukulele for the more upbeat satirical numbers and the autoharp for the more sombre ones.
In the fringe theatre scene, you sometimes have to wade through a lot before you see something as personal and strikingly honest as this. The show is in its stride when Alex injects humour in numbers such as ‘Life, Death and the Meaning of Happiness’ and ‘Bucket List’ and also in the powerful scene when Alex attends Music Therapy for the first time. But for the most part the songs were intriguing embryos of ideas which didn’t feel quite fully developed yet. This meant that the show didn’t accumulatively pack the emotional punch that I was expecting, but it does have potential.
Michael will workshop After All over the next few months before taking the show to Edinburgh PBH’s Free Fringe Festival running from 3rd to 24th August 2019 at Pilgrim Bar, Back Lounge.