A brief review for a brief show. Earlier this year, the National Theatre tweeted ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ to all mothers, adding bluntly, “Not you, Medea,” in reference to the ancient Greek character who killed her own children, in an act of filicide or merely by accident, depending on which version of that particular Greek myth is to be believed. Agave, famous for mutilating her own son Pentheus, albeit under the influence of the god Dionysus, is presented in Here She Comes partly as a victim of circumstances and partly as someone who has lost a sense of normalcy, perhaps irrevocably.
This production, clearly an adaptation of Euripides’ The Bacchae, is certainly atmospheric, using the performance space incredibly well to create a real sense of the outdoors. It was as though this were a campfire story being told, by the show’s narrator, SJ Brady. By Jove Theatre Company had tweeted, “Bring a towel or a rug to sit on!” though I wasn’t the only one not to have received that memo. As a consequence, I found myself sat extremely uncomfortably on a tree stump, or what looked like a tree stump, but if I had it bad, spare a thought for the member of the audience who yelped before she had a chance to sit down fully, as what she called a twig had apparently gone into her rear end.
I would have been able to concentrate more on the intense narrative if the seating arrangements had been more conventional, and would have been more engaged. Instead I spent a considerable amount of energy trying to make myself less uneasy, and notably, nobody took umbrage if someone inadvertently knocked into someone else – to quote a certain politician, “we’re all in this together”. At best, there’s a parallel to be drawn between my physical discomfort and the emotional discomfort of the story, told almost entirely in verse.
Still, I would have loved to have appreciated the show a little better: ‘enjoy’ is not quite the term to be used in a story that doesn’t end well. But it is at least a thoughtful exploration as to how and why Agave ended up doing what she did, rather like the musical Wicked looking at how and why the Wicked Witch of the West ended up with that name. I couldn’t quite deduce, however, whether this was a play that sought to say something about mental health, or whether that was just one of several possible interpretations of this backstory.
Brady possesses a compelling manner in this steadily-paced production, with a 50-minute run time. The live music (Vivienne Youel), from my vantage point, wasn’t always in perfect sound balance with the narrator. The lighting for much of the final section left Brady sat in the dark, such that I could make out gestures but not facial expressions. Despite these minor quibbles, overall, the production needs more work, but the script is fresh and vigorous.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Agave. A woman craving liberation from her stagnant life, seeking the feeling of freedom. Invisible within the eyes of society, within the walls of her home, her bones are burning with loneliness. Her husband’s dead, she’s lost a daughter – and she can’t remember who she was before she had a family. Agave’s ready to burst at the first glimpse of freedom until she hears someone call her name…
A vengeful god with a flair for the dramatic indulges Agave’s resistance to her son’s oppressive nature and before she knows it she’s living in the wild. It’s women only, and as they unite in ecstatic transcendence, Agave begins to lose her grip on reality.
How far will one woman go to protect her freedom?
Here She Comes is the second show in By Jove’s Season of Violent Women, a triptych of close encounters with dangerous and disruptive women from myth and history. Co-artistic director SJ Brady spins a modern day tale of limitation and ecstasy from Euripides’ devastating tragedy.
Here She Comes
The Gallery on the Corner, 273 Balham High Road, SW17 7BD