Fury (Soho Theatre)

Hannah Hauer-King directs a pounding production of Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s new play

Sarah Ridgeway in Fury
Sarah Ridgeway in Fury
© The Other Richard

We’ve had a lot of modern Medeas of late: Kate Fleetwood‘s yummy mummy at the Almeida, a living migraine, and an exhausted Emma Beattie at the Gate, almost sleepwalking to the end. Simon Stephens’ Blindsided was a spin on it too. It’s hell of a challenge for a writer, to wring tragedy out of infanticide. Better still: sympathy.

Phoebe Eclair-Powell lets the world beat down on her Medea: Sam, a young single mother, still only 25, cramped in a two-bed council flat in Peckham. Kids were her best hope of a life, but she missed out on youth and, deserted by her teenage sweetheart, has to fend for herself. A zero-hour cleaning job barely covers her rent. A shrivelled welfare state offers no support.

To cutthroat London, all rent hikes and on-your-bike indifference, she’s a scrounger – the scourge of broken Britain – but really she’s striving, striving so hard, striving and straining and struggling.

Not like Tom, the student upstairs, who spends his days slouched on his sofa-bed, skimming through textbooks, watching TV and scoffing cereal straight from the box. At first, he seems kindly – a nice Nottinghamshire lad, meek and middle-class, who takes her out on a date. But when she brushes him off, he burns with rejection and, in the guise of kindness – helping out with the kids, offering cash in hand work – he entraps and exploits Sam. It’s abusive, but invisible; her word against his. Alex Austin gives him a gangly awkwardness and a dead eyed stare.

Narrated by a chorus of three, who spit venom at Sam and judge her like Furies, Eclair-Powell’s play sears with ferocity. The writing’s a bit clunky, sub-par spoken word, and moral simplicity makes masks of its characters, but Hannah Hauer-King‘s pounding production wrings all the rage out of it.

As Sam, Sarah Ridgeway implodes with full force. It’s as if she absorbs all the anger aimed at her and swallows it, stomachs it, until it bursts out in a guttural roar. It’s a fireball of a performance – a burning tailspin – but one that makes the final, unexpected twist seem all the more of a cop out.

Fury runs at the Soho Theatre until 30 July.