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The Glow Review

The Glow by Alistair Mcdowall

The Royal Court Theatre 24th of Jan - 5th of March

Review by PlaysPlaylist

Mommy Can't Sleep - XVOTO

I'm going to warn you all from the start: Alistair Mcdowall's first act is dark. It's really dark. The use of darkness and its all-encompassing nature fuel this terrifying sense of mystery, disorientation and eeriness throughout the first act. Much of the light source in the first half is candlelight and a few faint spotlights to give us the expression of the characters. It is only when we see the eponymous "Glow" in action for the first time that we are exposed to the true colours of the characters in the space... their true natures become illuminated. This juxtaposition of light and darkness is perfectly embodied by XVOTO 's track. The thumping bass and the sprawling flow of the lyrics during the verses feel crushing and despairing... only to be melted away by the clear, uplifting tones and melodies from the organ and the vocals in the pre-chorus, giving an entirely new shape to the song as a whole.

Family Ties - Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar

Baby Keem and Kendrick put on an incredible display of lyrical skill and class over an ever changing landscape of beats on this song and its this mastery of 'flow switching' that can be seen in the performances of Fisayo Akinade and Rakie Ayola in this production. In the first act they both add perfectly to the sense of dread and doom for Brooke (played by Ria Zmitrowicz) and the darkness that surrounds them all only seems to add to their terrible natures. We see Ayola play a cunning and domineering spiritualist, hell-bent on using Brooke for her own gain, and Akinade play a son out of favour; petulant, cruel and violent. Really pretty unlikeable people. Yet when we see these actors again, it doesn't take long for all of that to be erased. In act 2 we see Ayola as a sweet, caring, witty woman and Akinade as an equally witty yet affable and bookish boy. And just like that our previous judgements of them melt away. It’s brilliantly done and there's never a moment where the two felt out of place, or unconvincing, a clear testament to the work that they've put into their craft.

Garden of England Interlude - Alt-J

The Glow is ambitious and experimental as a production in the way it weaves witchcraft, time-travel and mythology all together. Its compelling and entertaining but I thought that I'd become lost quite quickly in the pace at which it was changing. However the design on the show, particularly by Tal Rosner, Jessica Hung Han Yun, Merle Hensel and Helen Lovett Johnson really kept me in it. The subtlety of the washes onto characters bodies, the use of video to indicate the spaces we were in and the attention to detail on the costumes as we moved through time periods, everything was on point! This interlude by Alt-J is the same; the woodwind ensemble coupled with the subtle sounds of birdsong in the background, all of it is perfect at instantly transporting you back to a time of old, a time of knights, kings and magic.

Further Away - Ben Howard

The second act of The Glow is (I’m sure you’ll be happy to know) much lighter in tone but what Alistair Mcdowall and director Vicky Featherstone do brilliantly is introduce us to one of the core themes of the play: death and rebirth. With the subtle shifts of the set to denote time and space and the incredible performances of Ayola and Akinade as mentioned before, we get to see how the past has influenced the future and how even this new pair of mother and son can find love and compassion in spite of their previous lives. It’s something so subtly done that when you realise it you feel for Zmitrowicz’s Brooke even more. It’s a sentiment that is beautifully echoed in Ben Howard’s track here. The simple acoustic guitar gives way to Howard’s bittersweet lyrics, realising that you’re growing further away from everyone else… and that you can no longer be the same as everyone else no matter how hard you try to chase the past.

Female Energy Pt. 2 - Willow

"I am human, I am woman" Willow croons at the end of this song but once you've heard it you'd definitely think otherwise. The folk guitar and the beautiful harmonies feel angelic and other-worldly reminding me so much of Ria Zmitrowicz's performance in this show. And not just because I think it would make the perfect underscore for her final monologue! Being the vessel through which the audience experiences this play is not an easy feat but she does so with a grace and poise that's truly impressive. What I love most about her performance, however, is the way she embodies the human experience whilst being anything but human. We see her fear, her joy, her laughter, her pain... everything that makes someone human. All whilst sending people back and forward in time and using magic. Crazy. It's a super-human level task and Ria was absolutely up to it.


Honourable Mentions

Miss you - Delac

A Thousand Years - Christina Perri

Black Skinhead - Kanye West

I am woman - Emmy Mali

Wake up this day - Tom Misch ft. Jordan Rakei


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