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by on 12 February 2019

Furious Realism


by Phoebe Eclair-Powell

Nicole Charles and Company, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Milton Court Theatre, Barbican until 16th February

Review by Isobel Rogers

Fury is a contemporary tale by Phoebe Eclair-Powell (winner of the Soho Theatre Young Writer’s Award) based on Euripides’ Medea. Director Nicole Charles’ production is boldly 2019. Three narrators tell the story of Samantha: a stressed single mum living on a Peckham council estate. She’s a powerless figure in a vest top, hair scrunchie and spray-on jeans, inhabiting a city which is increasingly moneyed and unforgiving. She’s weighed down by the modern female prison sentence of two children and a cleaning job she can barely hold on to.


Lydia Fleming as Sam is arresting, but the character is so archetypal that she’s almost blank: she could be any one of countless unlucky women, ‘anywhere between 17 and 35’. She meets Tom, a comparatively-privileged Masters student with gelled hair and a preppy polo shirt. His intentions for Sam head increasingly wayward and sadistic. He pays her to do his chores and more. Joseph Potter’s eyes sparkle as Tom realises his upper hand in their uneven relationship. She needs him to pay her in cash.

The night they meet, they dance together on the top of designer Charlie Cridlan’s silver framed set. Its starkness represents this harsh, unbending city: a place full of skyscrapers. The structure needs to be half a metre larger in scale to avoid play-acting connotations. Sam’s place in this world is signalled with yellow marigolds pinned onto the frame.

Our narrators manipulate three heavy grey blocks to create Sam’s landscape as it morphs into the seaside and back again. Tom and Sam are intent on adventures away from their city sprawl. They kiss at Nunhead Reservoir. The interplay between them is sorrowfully fascinating: a believable downward spiral of cruel manipulation, acted with skill.

Sam’s children are two shining balls of fairy lights, disembodied but always there. A large handheld spotlight is employed in tender moments of exposition, bringing the seriousness of Sam’s fate to our attention.

The narrators (Brandon Ashford, Isabella Brownson and Kristina Tonteri-Young) are slick and omniscient, uniting as a batch of orderly social workers come to check up on Sam’s violent outbursts. They become lofty commentators on her downfall – singing angelically in harmony – instead of her allies, as I think the script intends. Confident and seemingly a class above the story, they are removed from the plot; their cameos as real friends in Sam’s life are difficult to relate to and stunt the storytelling.

A short time before the end, the performance is curtailed by a stage manager: Fleming is streaming blood from her face. She has hit her head on the silver frame during a tussle (I heard a sharp clunk). I hope that Sam finds enough fury to fight back her oppressors: a triumphant ending is needed.

Isobel Rogers
February 2019

Photography courtesy of Guildhall School of Music and Drama


From → Drama, Reviews

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