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BWW Review: THE GLOW, Royal Court

Time-travelling fantasy is a technical triumph, but a narrative failure

BWW Review: THE GLOW, Royal Court

BWW Review: THE GLOW, Royal Court If a reviewer begins their piece praising the lighting (Jessica Hung Han Yun) and the sound (Nick Powell), then you can be sure that they didn't enjoy much else. Well, The Glow's lighting and sound are very impressive indeed.

Alistair McDowall's play was the 2018 Pinter Commission and the (no doubt) Covid-related delay in its arrival on stage may not have done it any favours, although the slipping of time in its production adds a welcome frisson of meta (more of which later) to a play in which time slides backwards and forwards.

The Woman (Ria Zmitrocwicz) languishes in a Victorian bedlam, almost mute, before being hauled out to play the stooge to a showwoman with an immature, jealous son. They're so stock as characters that you're waiting for the twist and, eventually, inevitably, it comes as The Woman's powers prove (shock horror!) to be genuine!

Soon we're travelling back to the ancient and recent past, stirring in a warrior who has something of Game of Throne's The Hound about him, a gentle nurse mourning her son and a charming 70s proto-conspiracy theorist who leaves pamphlets in books because there was no 4chan then. These parts (and more) are played by Fisayo Akinade, Rakie Ayola and Tadhg Murphy, who each give director, Vicky Featherstone, more than the script deserves - technically, the show is super.

There's a bit of mumbo-jumbo at the end vaguely relating to the entropic death of the universe (which takes us even closer to the recent Marvel bore-athon, Eternals, with which the play shares much) and we're released into the night to lament the fact that such a platform was given over to so misconceived a script.

And then you're thumbing through the playtext on the bus wondering if it really was that bad and find an essay in the appendix concerning the sources for the play. It's a brilliantly written pastiche of Jorge Luis Borges's stories about imagined books, imagined myths, imagined writers. If only the play had a scintilla of the essay's wit and verve, the evening would have been much more fun!

The Glow continues at the Royal Court until 5 March

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From This Author - Gary Naylor