In Aftercare, Steve Lambert is to be applauded for attempting to shine a theatrical light on the taboo subject of BDSM. With the enormous (and largely undeserved) recent success of Fifty Shades of Grey, this is an area of sexual mores that seems to be the current flavour of the month, and a fascinating subject it is too. But Lambert's exploration of this secret world is sadly ponderous and meandering, the result curiously unerotic and emotionless.
Sam, high-flying professional and novice submissive, has hooked up with Paul to experience a world that is a revelation to her, but she gets more than she bargained for when she discovers the true nature of Paul's relationship with Lisa and the rituals they play out as power shifts between them. With Sam's career taking off and Lisa's life as a teacher collapsing around her after her illicit relationship with a 15-year-old, all that Lisa has left is the ritual of control and domination of Paul.
Played out in Paul's basement flat and an abandoned church, there are intimations that the threesome's desires may have religious connotations linked to the Roman Catholic Eucharist, but this interesting aspect is glossed over. Claire Louise Amias gives Lisa a keenly observed vulnerability, even while in her apparently dominant role in the relationship. Basil Stephenson's Paul struggles to convince as the dominant partner with Vanessa Russell's Sam, and does better as Lisa's submissive, unable to pull away from the draw of their strange vampiric ritual. The cast play the physical interactions with great conviction, but it all just takes too long to get to the point.
Even then, it's not entirely clear what Lambert and director Barry Edwards are trying to say, unless it's that BDSM has little to do with sex and eroticism and is all about power - while there's jealousy and despair, the three characters don't seem to experience love or hate, and just seek to express themselves through control. So while Aftercare is an interesting piece, it could be sharper and more smartly focused.
-by Carole Gordon