Wednesday 7th August 2019 at The Water Rats, London.
When you are ‘othered’ at your most vulnerable, why not start your own ‘army’ made up of those renouncing the norm by perceived choice? Our eponymous Angel is a compelling force who interrupts daily lives, asks cryptic questions and offers a new way of living. This is an intense cross of sci-fi and politically charged drama which begins with mania and ends with more questions than answers.
Under direction of Rebecca Goh and Sussan Sanii, the entire cast give assured performances. Characters are uniformly odd with most eschewing the traits of a well trained polite society in favour of an unspecified notion of freedom. And if freedom is the drug, dance is the selected form of dosing – this is a raving army under command of an angel on earth pursuing two vendettas simultaneously – those caught in the cross fire of her hell-bent intentions are not her concern.
Sophie Bird gives a suitably magnetic performance as Angel, the one with untold power over others. Jessica De Carvalho impresses as Lucy the would-be second in command of sorts who crafts a character equal parts uncertain and unnerving with a flair for the party girl vibe. They’re joined by Mia Foo as the abrasive, devil-may-care, slightly unhinged Gaby and the comically laid-back but quick to feigned melodrama Michael, played very charismatically by Jay Lafayette Coward.
This unruly rabble crash ‘homes’ all over the world, throwing epic parties and throwing ordinary lives into chaos. The latest ‘victims’ of this pastime are the irate Cate (a top dramatic performance from Sarah Assaf) and Sebastian (played as something of a tragi-comic wimp by Joe Coates). They’re merely props in Angel’s wider grand plan, and it’s with the arrival of money-making landlord Peter (Hassan Govia who matches Bird’s intensity well) that the plot clarifies…before once again thickening.
Writer Nat Graham taps into very current tastes, creating something of a cross between the irreverence of Misfits and the sense of departure from the norm of things like The Travellers and similar sci-fi, ‘escape this broken world for another to save yourself and/or others’ storylines. It also smacks of dramatic ambiguity even as it courts classic supernatural themes, posing interesting questions about the true nature of Angel’s claims and intentions. It’s the kind of ambiguity that would usually guarantee a second season if this were a quirky millennial-themed Netflix show, but being live theatre, it is both better as an experience but also underwhelming in its lack of clarity both at intervals and at closing.
Angel is a show which caters well to contemporary trends and tastes, offering riotous views of young people rebelling against a system of trained subservience. Though the performances do outshine the writing to an extent, Angel is certainly one of the more entertaining and oddly charismatic shows to be seen at this year’s Camden Fringe. If you like your theatre ‘different’, intense, riotous and more than a little ambiguous, Angel is a good way to go.
Angel is presented by Maenad Theatre Collective. It played The Water Rats as part of the Camden Fringe 2019.