Fast and Furious

To be honest with you, there has been a delay with this post. Over these past few days, I’ve sat in front of my laptop, insulting my mind and fingers to engage and wed this blog. Hoping to find the words on my dreamcatcher, I’ve struggled to clean up my verbal vomit.

Typing, backspacing, reading, cursing and deleting, my swear jar has made millions. The reason for this paused response is…Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s Fury unexpectedly hit close to home. Fury replayed memories and caused internal publishing battles between my mind and blog. Headlining as one of my awesome theatre productions of 2016, you know it’s a great play when it troubles your writing.

Being raised by a single mother, home became a constant shapeshifter – bedroom, flat, house, hostel, hotel and B&B. A child doesn’t understand the financial struggles, but a mother does. I admire and love my mum, but I will never be able to interpret her personal battles and victories. She was (and still is) my saviour. Never neglected but loved, my mum gave me independence and freedom to explore at such a young age. Pedalling my bike with jelly sandals and frilly socks, I discovered the meanings of life through the “unmarried mother zone” of Tooting.

Many school friends are now with child (or children). They too were taunted or bullied for their “mistakes”. Seeing their bump through the buttons of a school shirt, I listened to the nasty slurs and watched the looks of disgust on mute. The bullied can’t defend the bullied. They were shamed, wasted and forced to “deal with their consequences”. The boyfriend had his Get Out of Jail Free card, washing his hands to scrub up “a new bird”. Trying to encourage a pregnant friend to find hope, she retorted “LOOK AT ME!”

“Look at me
I just can’t believe
What they’ve done to me
We could never get free
I just wanna be, I just wanna be
Look at me
I just can’t believe
What they’ve done to me,
We could never get free,
I just wanna be
I just wanna dream…”
-Major Lazer, featuring Amber

Fury is every single mother’s theatre dream…or nightmare…or reality…

Anna Reid Talks About Fury's Set Design
Anna Reid (Set Designer) and her model box at Fury’s Social Media Call, Soho Theatre

Attending Fury’s Social Media Call at Soho Theatre, I sensed the play was going to travel down some dark paths. Gathering in an anonymous circle, the quote – “don’t mug yerself” – inspired Phoebe Eclair-Powell to write Fury with conviction, tension and justice. The marriage between writer and Damsel Productions (Hannah Hauer-King and Kitty Wordsworth) empowered women to forget their sex, but vex on stage. Loving their true Londoner tongue, the cast and creatives warned Fury packed an almighty punch, followed by an eerie, trembling lipped silence. I braced myself for the journey of the past.

The world premiere of a chilling and powerful modern Medea by Phoebe Eclair-Powell. This is Sam. Young, impulsive, single mum. Londoner born and bred and never ever left. Sam makes her mistakes, but who can blame her? Tom rents the flat above, the one Sam cleans. If they can come to ‘an arrangement’ he won’t call the Social on her. You might think Tom is a monster. You might think Sam’s kids would be better off without her. Someone needs to make a decision.

– Soho Theatre

Designed to emotionally exhaust and mindfully batter, Fury rubs salted slurs and sprinkles holy vinegar onto the grails of motherhood and social class. With a gritty attitude and the South London “pull up your pants” swagger, Phoebe Eclair-Powell hijacks her main character, Sam (Sarah Ridgeway), to receive the killer blows from our society. Aiming for some sense of justice, Eclair-Powell wants to press your buttons – “what makes your furious?” She teases the audiences through seventy minutes worth of pure torture upon a young, single mother. Her words delivered and stamped my royal approval as this play is a passionate and expressive plea, demanding the audience to simply “hear me out”.

Forbidding theatre’s “feel good” factor, Tom’s (Alex Austin) oppressive dictatorship strips confidence and shackles the chains of blackmail. Despite Sam’s cries for help, rejection harvests the lack of care and her vulnerability blossoms suicide. The desire to shame and belittle creates stunning poetic monologues throughout the fast and furious drama. This mental breakdown of despair and forgiveness clenches the gut to standby and watch a young woman, who’s guilty of child neglect, pay for her crimes.

At the play’s core, the aggression bubbles and shame spits. Like a three headed monster, the Chorus’ chatter hones the narrative into painful, twisted sharp turns. Man (Daniel Kendrick) bends Fury with the much needed comic relief. With grief and salvation, Fury (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) begs and pleads for Sam’s safe well-being whilst Woman (Naana Agyei-Ampadu) shoots down the pacifying hands of serenity with the ammunition of seriousness and tact. The unbreakable bond between the trio bicker and deal with Sam’s mess alongside the bumps and grinds of unexpected yet soulful music.

FURY with Sarah Ridgeway. Credit The Other Richard
Fury with Sarah Ridgeway (Sam). Photo Credit: The Other Richard

The trinity of the set, lighting and sound designs turbo boost Fury into a beat thumping, claustrophobic creative space. Music thrashes and pounds the invisible walls of two flats, but drowns Sam into the recurring gospel tune of ‘Get Free’ by Major Lazer, featuring Amber. The colour changing LED panels creates heaven’s hardcore extremities of frustration yet lashes Sam’s bites of anger. Obstructing Sam’s demolition, the plinth sticks out like a sore thumb and creates the Set Designer’s, Anna Reid, desired vision of “forcing women upon pedestals…but what happens when you knock them off?”

Fury is the theatre’s grafter, working hard to provide a service through blood, sweat and tears. Like a group therapy session, the cast are brutalists, sharpening their dynamic performances for the sake of entertainment. Born out of George Osborne’s cut on the third child tax credit, the play hints at social revolution and becomes a timeless piece of crafty theatre. Fury is a keepsake for a broken family.

Adoring the refreshing emotional grittiness, Fury humanises the dehumanised. Voicing those with the labels of “single mother” and “unskilled”, the play possess such a powerful awakening of inner family turmoil. You think big girls don’t cry…but, after watching Fury, they do.

Book your tickets for Fury here. Closes 30 July.

Big thanks to Theatre Bloggers, Lornette Harley and Soho Theatre

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