Tuesday, March 5

The Glow – Royal Court

“You go far back enough, and everything turns to myth”

Alistair Mcdowall’s “The Glow” is written with a plethora of colours and flavours, bursting at the seams with ideas about time and the ephemerality of the past. Its central focus is on myth, with a defining character whose presence transcends the stage. Found in an asylum in 1863, a woman is assumed to be a perfect host for an ambitious necromancer but soon things turn awry as the woman’s magical powers come into their own.

With an eclectic mix of characters and shifting timelines, it is a joy to watch the complete changes in mood from scene to scene. The plot is anchored by the pivotal character, the woman played by Ria Zmitrowicz, as her character slowly unfurls like she is learning how to exist. Zmitrowicz imbues the character with a purity of innocence and rawness of expression, she is like an empty vessel for myth to cling to. Her companion, Haster, played by Tadhg Murphy has gravitas and a likeable sulkiness. Fisayo Akinade and Rakie Ayola switch between different characters, delivering distinct comical rhythms to each role they play. From a rigid and embittered son to a mellow, new age historian, Akinade effortlessly brings the humorous dialogue to life. Ayola’s flighty and self-possessed spiritualist is a charismatic antagonist, a stark contrast to the warm, down-to-earth Ellen.

As an audience we do not follow the woman’s story chronologically, we are purposefully placed outside of it, watching from a vast space which the set design, lighting and sound (by Merle Hensel, Jessica Hung Han Yun and Nick Powell) reinforce. They convey a topsy-turvy world which shifts and baffles the senses, alluding to the mythical world that transcends corporeal reality. It is visually phenomenal, with meticulous attention to detail making you immersed in the strange environments.

The sense of myth evokes something deeper in us, appealing to both the primal and celestial aspects of our existence and the writing as well as Vicky Featherstone’s direction capture this. The story is slightly unclear and confusing at times because of the magical elements, with characters jumping between time zones and as a result, perhaps some of the meaning in the play was lost. Nevertheless, there is a profound sense of certain timeless themes; the inability to escape our given experience, our desire for belonging and how myth can interweave with the ordinary. The Glow offers a wealth of inspiration and ideas to reflect upon, particularly relevant as we approach a virtual age and leave behind another.

Playing until 5th March, https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/theglow/

Reviewer: Riana Howarth

Reviewed: 27th January 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★