Review: ANGELA, Online

Sound Stage season kicks off with Mark Ravenhill in reflective mode

By: Mar. 26, 2021
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BWW Review: THE POLTERGEIST, Southwark PlayhouseReview: ANGELA, Online

The act of story telling is always a selfless undertaking. Putting words to stories that are fact or fiction should always be an authentic process. Not only is Mark Ravenhill's Angela deeply personal, it comes steeped in love as an act of unflinching generosity.

Written specifically for radio to open the Sound Stage season, this beautifully judged piece embraces memory and through repetition, soundscape and a finely crafted inner monologue provides clarity and insight into a struggle with both identity and corporeality.

Directed by Polly Thomas, this isn't a conventional Ravenhill experience. Replacing the recognisably full on in-yer-face stylistic motifs familiar to this writer is a more muted, reflective palate. Angela herself is haunted by a lifetime of experience. Her constant struggle to be recognised as Angela is pitted against a prodigious loss that she has suffered and a seeming harshness that still finds room for a gigantic heart. Her love for son Mark overshadows everything else, including herself. Despite what others may think or say (an aunt says he will grow up poor), Mark must come first.

Angela is a woman who knows what she wants. From singling out husband-to-be Ted (played here by Toby Jones) at a dance to the happiness of her child, Angela is a formidable character, all of which makes the battle posed in later life by her dementia all the more heartbreaking.

Told with enormous love, the audioplay is performed by a company that has rewarded Ravenhill's honesty with a profound sincerity all their own. As the younger and older Angela, Matti Houghton and Pam Ferris share a fire in the belly, and Joseph Millson tackles the role of Mark with huge respect and sensitivity, navigating the rollercoaster of seeing a loved one change before your eyes.

This is ultimately a story of hope and of being whatever you want to be, however daunting the obstacles may seem. Ravenhill's Angela constitutes a wonderful addition to this writer's canon and offers astute insight into a condition about which we still know so little.

Angela airs 26-28 March & 1-2 April

Main photo: Mark Ravenhill