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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Half-God Of Rainfall
Kiln Theatre  Spring 2019

A mash-up of Olympian and Yoruba myths, modern feminism and basketball, Inua Ellams's play almost works. But it is eventually weighed down by its ambitions, over-length and abrupt shifts in tone. losing power as it lingers on for 100 unbroken minutes.

A shorter version, perhaps part of a programme of three half-hour fables, might have been more successful.

An unfortunate wager between the Greek god Zeus and his Nigerian counterpart leads to Zeus being allowed to have his way with a Nigerian woman, as was his wont with Leda, Io and other objects of his transitory desire.

The resulting half-immortal child has two special powers, the ability to weep in torrents and being really good at basketball. The second takes him to American sports stardom and eventually to the 2012 Olympics, where Zeus's jealousy leads to the loss of his ability and the humiliation of the Nigerian basketball team.

Enraged more by her son's dishonour than her own, the boy's mother enlists the aid of Zeus's other victims and the goddesses of both pantheons to achieve a violent vengeance.

As that summary suggests, Ellams's play ranges in tone from the heroic through the mock-heroic, from broad comedy it turns out that all American basketball stars are the sons of one god or another to grand guignol the ferocity of the mother's attack on Zeus is truly frightening.

But in the process it repeatedly loses focus, shifting attention from mother to son and back again, and not always clear about why it is telling this story.

Under Nancy Medina's fluid direction, Rakie Ayola carries most of the narrative and emotional weight of the evening, playing both the mother and, in brief snippets, Everyone Else, and successfully achieving instant shifts in character and considerable depth in the more significant roles.

Kwami Odoom has little to do beyond characterising the boy as an amiable and modestly goofy teenager, making the character attractive but not substantial enough to be more than a McGuffin, the thing the others fight for, or to seem worth the extreme measures his mother takes on his behalf.

The Half-God Of Rainfall is more successful in isolated parts than as a whole, more impressive as a showcase for actor Rakie Ayola than as either fable or drama.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  The Half-God Of Rainfall - Kiln Theatre 2019

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