Camden Fringe 2019
‘Angel’ written by Nat Graham and directed by Rebecca Goh, is a modern interpretation of Euripides’ tragedy ‘Bacchae’. Inspired by the Greek revenge myths, set right here, right now, Angel is a tragedy of Ancient proportions.
In this modern interpretation of Bacchae, the Olympian god Dionysus has been replaced by an angel. Taking place in today’s London, Angel’s target is an unsuspected landlord, who she believes has done her wrong. Her followers have taken over the disused theatre he is renting out as cheap accommodation, and have thrown a big party against the tenants’ will. Using the Ancient Greek tragedy as a template, ‘Angel’ is full of contemporary socio-political messages.
As we enter the Water Rats theatre, the stage has been set up in thrust. The lighting is low and loud music is playing as the ensemble is having a wild party. Everyone looks like they’re caught in a trance; this is the best party of their lives. The party is over and the show starts. We meet Angel (Sophie Bird) who is imposing and confident. She makes a speech about God and manages to convince us that she is indeed an angel. Then she disappears and we are left with her followers, slowly waking up with a hangover and having to deal with the tenants who want them out of their house as soon as possible.
But the followers can’t leave. They don’t go anywhere unless Angel tells them and Angel is nowhere to be seen.
This is a great concept – the disused theatre instead of the Macedonian court, Angel instead of Dionysus, a group of young people instead of the Bacchae and the Landlord as the villain who dared to mock the child of God. The staging is excellent and the Water Rats theatre becomes the disused theatre in the story without us needing to imagine anything. Overall there’s strong acting and Mia Foo, Jessica De Carvalho, and Jay Lafayette Coward all demonstrate great comedic timing and work very well as the chorus.
Graham’s writing potential is undeniable. She has a lot to say and writes good dialogue and good conflict, but at this point ‘Angel’ lacks in structure and in moments ends up dragging. The show tackles the futility of life, the societal expectations and the choices we make to achieve those even if we end up unhappy. But without a clear story structure, it can all come across as a bit preachy. For example the whole first 40 minutes felt like act one of the story, where a lot of things were being repeated without the story really moving forward and the act that followed was equally not fleshed out so by the time we reach the end there is no big impact, we don’t really feel for Angel or the landlord.
As Angel makes some big reveals near the end, some that you’d expect would be of high significance to her, there is no change in her character – she is the same confident and imposing character in the beginning all through to the end without having experienced a single moment of weakness or any sort of change. It’s not clear why she was so passionate about targeting this landlord when she doesn’t actually seem bothered by what he’s done to her or anyone else. If anything London is full of terrible landlords who abuse their power, this one doesn’t even seem that bad.
Moving forward I would strongly recommend nailing down the structure and cutting anything that is unnecessary – it is difficult for writers to kill their darlings, especially when they’ve written some amazing dialogue, but the storytelling should have priority. Heighten the character of the landlord, make the audience dislike him and the same goes for Angel, we need to be threatened by her, but we also need to like her, even if we hate ourselves for liking her.
The play ends with a beautifully choreographed ensemble piece. I wouldn’t have changed anything in those last moments, but I know that if the journey leading up to it was stronger, that piece would have hit the audience much harder. Finally, I’d also encourage upping the interaction with the audience, although we were being acknowledged and given the role of the other party guests there were moments that felt like we were forgotten.
This is certainly the beginning of a great show with a lot of potential. Well done.