Sam is a bad mother. She drinks, she wanders off, she hits her kids. She’s also a bad partner, a bad friend, a bad employee, an all-round bad citizen. So why should we feel sorry for her? This is the question Phoebe Éclair-Powell seeks to answer in Fury, a modern woman-on-the-edge tale with a distinctively Greek twist.
In Fury, Sam, played by Sarah Ridgeway, strikes up a relationship with neighbour Tom (Alex Austin) in an attempt to escape the children whom she can barely bring herself to look at anymore. Her Argonaut has left her for his Glauce (a pregnant, company car driving slapper named Carly), and she’s still struggling to pick up the shattered pieces. As their uneasy partnership escalates into a steady campaign of torment, Tom threatens to drive Sam over the edge and makes her question what she’s actually good for in this world.
The action of the play is framed by a squabbling chorus of three, each one vying for the audience’s attention and sympathy. Naana Agyei-Ampadu’s Woman blames Sam for her downfall, Daniel Kendrick’s Man wobbles on the fence and Anita-Joy Uwajeh’s Fury pleads her case. They croon the loud music Tom uses to smoke Sam out of the safety of her home, they bully, cajole and chase her around the stage. Far from ‘bearing witness’, this trio are less Chorus and more Daily Mail comment section.
As the play jolts through its twists and turns, Éclair-Powell’s purpose becomes clear. She is asking us to choose the real monster, the underprivileged but vile Sam or the underloved and viler Tom, but the game is rigged from the start. Sure, Sam cheats, lies, hits and has little care for anyone or anything around her, but her damage seeps through the script’s every page, the writers’ allegiances as clear as day. Sam ticks every box in the great big ‘victim’ playbook, while Tom’s last minute revelation of humanity doesn’t counteract his cruelty.
The performances seem to support this notion too. Ridgeway is wonderful as Sam, brimming with a vitality that is steadily chipped away to less than nothing. Her moments alone on stage have a power that surpasses pretty much anything else we see, as she sets ablaze a part that threatens to succumb to caricature and stereotype. Meanwhile, Austin’s Tom is all hard eyes and hard angles, languidly slicing at an apple with his Chekovian knife, safely cushioned in his privilege as he gaslights Sam half-crazy.
As a modern tragedy of Greek proportions, Fury makes its point well enough. This is primarily thanks to Sarah Ridgeway’s triumphant performance and the throbbing musical score. Smoothly choreographed and smartly designed, Hannah Hauer-King’s production carries a nuance that the script lacks. Éclair-Powell is tapping into something deeply resonant here, a modern day Medea on benefits that’s trapped in a desperate cycle not entirely of her own making. However, the play’s attempt to crack open the humanity of two broken people fails to pull us in. The scales aren’t balanced, the winner of our sympathy always clear. Fury offers us two well-made puppets but unfortunately, we can see the strings.
Fury is on until 30th July 2016. Click here for more information.