Death and what follows have been the perennial theme of drama and literature since the birth of tragedy and comedy in Ancient Greece. Mythological themes about the ‘Great Mystery’ presented through liturgy and ritual go even further back into the dawn of shamanic and religious practices. The anxiety human beings have felt about death has given rise to countless psychodramas about what awaits us in our journey to the afterlife. It is from the depths of this longstanding art and mythic hero’s journey that Afterlife the Musical roots itself, bringing to our ‘here and now’ a delightful tale of the soul’s journey and resting place in the Eternal.
The story begins with the unfortunate accident of a young couple in love, separated at death which propels them onto their own adventures in redemption in a vague middle ground between the soul’s Heaven and Hell. Like Dante’s Purgatorio, the hero of Afterlife, Amanda, played by the lovely Kiarra Balzer, must journey through a series of levels before reaching her Paradisio. Each level on the way to the Eternal Realms is guarded by Amanda’s own fear and loathing in the form of demented clowns, destructive dolls, a heady school master and mistress, sadistic merciless hospital staff, and other unsavoury characters. Each world is twisted into the shadow of itself through the enveloping tyranny of the self-styled ‘Queen of Heaven’, played diabolically well by Leighanne Georgeson.
Amanda is not alone in her journey however. Upon her arrival to the afterlife, she is guided by five archetypal helpers and Host, played by writer-director Thom Southwood, an Afterlife wizard of sorts. It is these helpers who recognize her purity of soul and warn her of her ‘chosen-one’ status and impending peril in facing the soul-thieving Queen.
These otherworldly assistants are ‘soul-smugglers’: Sage, the wise shamanic hippy (played by John Bidner), Charm, the sumptuous seductress (Melissa Curtis Perry), Mirth, the foot-in-his-mouth fool (Sammy Radelfinger), stately Atlas (Paul Holmes), and Warrior (Joel Southwood), the fierce protector and supreme swordsman. Amanda’s beloved, David (Samuel Southwood), has been captured by the queen’s minions in a different part of Afterlife. The queen recognizes the ferocity of his character and heroic strength of will, which she will attempt to capture for her own evil purposes.
Without giving away anymore of the story, the liturgy of Afterlife enacts a catharsis of the Heroine’s deepest seated fears, shedding the shadows that crept into her heart in life, and now, fully confronting and transforming them in death. The musical is a tour-de-force of light-hearted comedy, catchy and uplifting music, thrilling action, and surreal psychodrama, with edge-of-your-seat action sequences and philosophical questions that linger long after the performance is over.
Do yourself a favour and go see Afterlife the Musical, support this masterpiece of Sooke drama and the community of players that have given their all to make it happen. It may just assist you on the other side.
Afterlife the Musical continues on stage at Edward Milne community theatre until November 16. Performances take place on Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. with a matinee on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.