Call Me Fury
Reviewed – 19th September 2019
“an interesting and atmospheric production with many thought-provoking moments”
It is hard to know what to make of Call Me Fury at first. The set (David Spence) emanates aspects of folk horror, with bright autumn leaves scattered against straw and an ominous-looking cross – a palette that works well against the performers’ stark pilgrim black (costumes by Helen Stewart). But when the cast snap into action with snippets of wry and ironic commentary, it becomes clear that something different is at work in this production. What emerges over the play’s 75 minute running time is an anthology-style study of witchcraft, which eventually spills over into a piece seeking to tackle the entrenched lies and elusive truths of women’s history.
The main narrative thread that binds the show together is the well-worn story of the Salem witch trials, carried out with much meta-referential criticism of Arthur Miller’s iconic version of the tale in The Crucible. All of the cast (Mairi Hawthorn, Gracie Lai, Olivia Kennett and Sasha Wilson) take on the familiar roles from history: Abigail – the young girl who cries ‘witch’; Samuel Parris – the quick-to-condemn preacher; Tituba – the slave so easily cast as a villain; and Sarah Goode – the poor and despised woman who first faces the accusatory finger, as well as many others. The writing (Sasha Wilson) adds new depth to the characters of Salem through monologues that speak to the power of past trauma and the alienating nature of fear.
However, apart from these few monologues, for the most part the cast play out the action of the trials and their consequences while jumping quickly between being participant and commentator, stopping suddenly to narrate historical backstory and offer their own conclusions and jokes. It is sometimes these parts that feel the least effective element of the whole ensemble – summoning up the over-exaggerated melodrama of the original legend only to pull it apart in asides. It is when the performers branch out into discussions of witchcraft more generally that the dialogue delivers up moments of insight.
Alongside the Salem witch trials, the audience is treated to brief vignettes that examine the fate of other witches through time – spanning from the ancient past to eerily close to the present. The staging is used the most cleverly in these quick scenes; slick body movements and vivid red cloth convey the Gothic pathos of these tales well. Folk songs also punctuate the drama, and these give the performers more time to shine. They keep the mood of the piece anchored when elsewhere the tone so often shifts, and bring a delightfully haunting magic to the stage.
The direction (a collaboration with Hannah Hauer-King) allows the cast a lot of movement so that nothing feels static and the audience is always engaged, but there are moments where some pauses or drawn-out moments of drama might be welcome, in order to let some of the script’s heavy subject matter penetrate more deeply. The lighting (Holly Ellis) is effective, but there are some hints at the start as to how it could have been used more throughout the show.
Altogether, a combination of compelling performances from the cast and a bold mixture of different ideas explored in the writing make Call Me Fury an interesting and atmospheric production with many thought-provoking moments.
Reviewed by Vicky Richards
Photography by David Spence
Call Me Fury
Hope Theatre until 5th October
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Full casting is announced today for Footloose: The Musical, which returns next month following a smash-hit 2016 tour. Opening at New Wimbledon Theatre on Friday 21 April, the tour will include a strictly limited West End season at The Peacock, playing for three weeks from Tuesday 12 September 2017. Full tour schedule attached.
Joshua Dowen will play Ren McCormack, the role immortalised on screen by Kevin Bacon. Joshua’s stage credits include Dogfight at Southwark Playhouse, Cool Rider at the Duchess Theatre and All or Nothing at the Vaults Festival.
The cast also features Hannah Price (reprising her performance from the 2016 tour) as Ariel Moore, Reuven Gershon (Let It Be, West End and Broadway) as Reverend Shaw, Lindsay Goodhand (Crazy For You, Watermill Theatre) as Ethel McCormack, Laura Sillett (Grease, International Tour) as Rusty, Connor Going (The Pirates of Penzance, Sh*tfaced Shakesepare) as Chuck, Emma Fraser (The Vaudevillians, Les Enfants Terribles) as Wendy Jo, Gracie Lai (Avenue Q, UK Tour) as Urleen, Tomas Wolstenhome (Once, West End) as Bickle, Dominic Gee Burch as Jeter and Alex Marshall (Buddy, UK Tour) as Wes. The cast also includes Luke Dowling, Grace Lancaster, Laurence Libor, Jamie Ross and Lauren Storer.
They join the previously announced Gareth Gates as Willard and Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore.
Based on the 1984 screen sensation starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose: The Musical tells the story of city boy Ren, who has to move to a rural backwater in America where dancing is banned. All hell breaks out as Ren breaks loose and soon has the whole town up on its feet. Featuring classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and the unforgettable title track, Footloose: The Musical is set to take the world by storm once again, bursting with youthful spirit, dazzling dance and electrifying music.
When the film was released in 1984, it became the highest-grossing February release in US film history. The soundtrack album ended the year-long reign of Michael Jackson’s Thriller at number one and went on to top album charts all over the world, eventually selling in excess of 17 million copies. Footloose was nominated for a Golden Globe, and both the title song and Let’s Hear It for the Boy received Academy Award nominations. Footloose: The Musical first opened on Broadway in 1998 where it ran for 709 performances, with a London production following in 2006.
Gareth Gates rose to fame through the inaugural series of Pop Idol in 2001, going on to sell over 5 million records worldwide and have hits across the globe. His version of Unchained Melody sold over a million copies in the UK and is the 3rd best-selling single of the Noughties. Gareth is also the youngest ever-male solo artist to debut at number 1. More recently Gareth has enjoyed a successful career on stage, with credits including Les Misérables, Legally Blonde and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. In 2014 Gareth appeared in the final series of Dancing on Ice, and joined boyband 5th Story as part of ITV’s second series of The Big Reunion, touring arenas with bands including Blue and Five.
Gareth will not appear in Wimbledon and Chester.
Maureen Nolan has been singing with her sisters since she was nine years old, when they became one of Europe’s first girl bands, The Nolans. Best known for their smash hit single I’m in the Mood for Dancing, The Nolans enjoyed phenomenal record sales worldwide, and worked with some of the world’s most respected artists including Frank Sinatra. On stage, Maureen has played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers in the West End and on tour to critical acclaim. She was the fourth Nolan sister to play the role, earning them entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. Other credits include Sadie in Girl’s Behind, Jill in Mum’s the Word and Sarah in The Naked Truth.
Footloose: The Musical has music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and is adapted for the stage by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie. It is based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford. It is directed by Racky Plews (American Idiot, West End) with choreography by Matthew Cole, design by Sara Perks and musical supervision by Mark Crossland. It is produced by David Hutchinson and Phillip Rowntree for Selladoor Productions, Tristan Baker and Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Jason Haigh-Ellery and Stephen McGill Productions. It is presented by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe.
Production photography by Matt Martin
from previous UK Tour