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
A shorter version, perhaps
part of a programme of three half-hour fables, might have been more
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
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.
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Review - The Half-God Of Rainfall - Kiln Theatre 2019