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Fury review at Soho Theatre, London – ‘overblown’

Alex Austin, Sarah Ridgeway and Anita-Joy Uwajeh in Fury at Soho Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s Fury is a hard-edged retelling of Medea. But while it’s particularly strong on the pressures and prejudices that come with being a single mother, but the play, as a whole, feels overblown.

Sam, abandoned by her husband and left with two children, put-upon by a patriarchy, is forced to extreme measures. She lives in a council flat, with a group of noisy students occupying the flat above. One of them, Tom, turns out to be a lot creepier than he first seems. A chorus, detached from the action of the play, narrate and discuss the story – with three strong performances from Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Daniel Kendrick and Anita-Joy Uwajeh.

It’s Sarah Ridgeway’s performance as Sam that dominates things. She does anger and ferocity just as well as she does desperation and distress, carefully shifting between likeable and loathsome. But Eclair-Powell doesn’t quite justify the many torments that she throws at Sam and, although the play’s power derives from the extremity of what Sam has to suffer, aside from being screwed by circumstance she’s not much of a character in and of herself.

The realism and subtlety at the play’s beginning are erased by the end. The antagonist, Tom, veers towards comic book villain territory with a last-minute, unseeded backstory. Frustratingly, too, the chorus explains away the ambiguities of the play’s climax. Any sense of ambivalence, of hatred battling with sympathy for these characters, is pointed out by them – the writing doesn’t appear to trust the audience to understand the play’s complexities.

Hannah Hauer-King’s production provokes discomfort through violence and noise. But it mistakes intensity for loudness, and assumes power comes from music and shouting. There’s some interesting material and ideas here, but they’re undermined by the choral exposition and underdeveloped characters.

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Occasionally powerful retelling of Medea suffers from a simultaneously overblown and underdeveloped script