My heart sank as I sat in the Soho Theatre as soon as I read that Fury is a “modern Medea” – that particular Greek tragedy, done well, is completely gloomy from beginning to end. Any show that takes Medea as its cue is not going to end positively by any stretch of the imagination. I left the show disagreeing that it is a modern Medea, as I was pleasantly surprised by it. There were moments of humour thrown in – and not just for good measure – and, more importantly, what happens to the (unseen) children in this play is ambiguous by the end, and there is therefore some hope in this otherwise bleak contemporary story.
I could not deduce whether Sam (Sarah Ridgeway) is a victim of circumstances or just simply a difficult character, “damaged goods” as Tom (Alex Austin) describes her in one of his more quotable descriptions. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both. Either way, I loved the lack of sentimentality in this production, telling it like it is – not exactly ‘in-yer- face’ theatre but powerful and relentless in its exploration of what it is to be a single parent attempting to keep her head above water.
The Chorus (Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Daniel Kendrick and Anita-Joy Uwajeh) speak out so much description it would have taken hours to act out everything they speak. Although it’s a fast-paced narrative, I disagree with a note in the programme that the Chorus is ‘an assault on the audience’ – hard-hitting and impactful, yes – but I certainly didn’t feel assaulted in any way. Which is, all things considered, not a bad thing.
The heavy and detailed descriptions give such an insight into the main characters that we really get to know them and know about them. This is, I concede, rather like reading the description next to a painting in an art gallery in order to understand the painting itself, but here, it’s the right amount of detail. The play never feels like it’s getting bogged down in irrelevant minutiae. So much imagination is required from the audience as the descriptions ripple through from the Chorus, and at the same time so little, because it’s essentially easy to follow what they’re talking about.
There is a further paradox here. The play is easy to follow, and simultaneously difficult to follow. Torn in several directions, demands are placed on Sam to the point where she is damned if she does and damned if she does not. It is not ‘easy’ to watch Sarah Ridgewell’s tour de force performance as her Sam pours out an intense soliloquy.
With subtle but effective and often deadpan humour (the playwright is, after all, daughter of the celebrated comedian and novelist Jenny Eclair), there is never a second wasted in a most economical production. The sparse staging allows for rapid and instantaneous scene changes, and gives the naturalistic and extraordinary script from Phoebe Eclair-Powell a chance to sparkle. The music chosen to accompany this production is apt for the narrative.
The wider society in which Sam lives is not as male-dominated as the ancient Greek society of Medea, but Sam’s personal universe seems to be. In that sense, the comparison is somewhat justified. While I am sorry the plot ended in the way it did, I make no apology for recommending such a profound and stimulating play that demonstrates how easily and widely young single mothers are still judged, without being judgemental itself.
Review by Chris Omaweng
This is Sam. Young, impulsive, single mum. Londoner born and bred and never ever left. Sam makes her mistakes, but who can blame her?
Tom rents the flat above, the one Sam cleans. If they can come to ‘an arrangement’ he won’t call the Social on her.
You might think Tom is a monster. You might think Sam’s kids would be better off without her. Someone needs to make a decision.
Shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award and winner of the Soho Theatre Young Writer’s Award, Fury is a chilling and powerful modern Medea about motherhood and class, taking an unapologetic look at the single young mum, the one already judged before she’s even opened her mouth.
Phoebe Eclair-Powell (Wink, 503) is resident writer at Soho Theatre. Directed by Hannah Hauer-King, co-founder of Damsel Productions and director of the 2015 hit Dry Land (Jermyn Street Theatre)
Running Time: 70 mins
Age Recommendation: 14+
Writer – Phoebe Eclair-Powell
Director – Hannah Hauer-King
Designer – Anna Reid
Lighting Designer – Natasha Chivers
Music and Sound – Nathan Klein
Casting Director – Nadine Rennie CDG
Sam – Sarah Ridgeway
Tom – Alex Austin
Woman – Naana Agyei-Ampadu
Man – Daniel Kendrick
BY PHOEBE ECLAIR-POWELL
Tue 5 – Sat 30 Jul 2016