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Moormaid review at the Arcola Theatre, London – ‘too many twists’

Sarah Alles and Moe Bar-El in Moormaid at Arcola Theatre, London. Photo: Anika Wagner

Marion Bott’s play Moormaid begins as a tense romance and turns to a furiously political tale of brotherhood, before becoming a story of resolution that ironically never feels fully resolved.

It opens as teacher Melissa (Sarah Alles), on the verge of hysteria, is about to do something drastic. Alerted by an auspicious dream, former student Medhi (Moe Bar-el) barges in, reuniting the pair for the first time in two years.

As Medhi and Melissa prowl around each other, revisiting their past, a relationship of genuine warmth develops between them. Alles’ performance ranges from teary hysteria to steely composure, while Bar-el’s Medhi, initially something of a cheeky charmer, reveals a depth of anguish as the play progresses – he’s captivating throughout.

The play is staged entirely within an apartment resembling an Ikea showroom, and while the action is occasionally disrupted by moody music. The focus here is on the actors, who create the world of the play using both their words and their physicality – turning a simple sex scene into a rhythmic dance for example.

Director Zois Pigadas’ production feels tight and concise, but the narrative twists and turns don’t entirely add up. Just as Moormaid is shaping up to be a compelling double act, it’s disrupted by the arrival of Khan (Ali Azhar), a friend of Medhi’s. But the character mainly exists to enhance Medhi’s narrative and once Khan enters the play, its rhythms change drastically and it loses the easy sense of pace of the early scenes.

 

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Verdict
Good chemistry between the two leads cant’t quite salvage a play with too many narrative twists
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