The terrorist threat, and tales of young men and women fleeing to Syria to join their cause has permeated the European psyche with increased fervor in recent years. Marion Bott’s explosive new chamber play, Moormaid at The Arcola Theatre, examines the effects of having someone you love disappear in to the unknown world of terror.
Despite a short running time, it’s a deeply complex plot, with several strands breaking off in different directions, and as an audience we’re left to make up our own minds on a lot of it. Just like a particularly famous movie, to say too much about the plot is to give away the entire ending. At the most basic level, it’s two ex-lovers reuniting in peculiar circumstances, while a third character drifts in and out with needs and beliefs which intertwine with the two central characters.
A small flat, made up of little more than a desk and sofa is where the drama unfolds, though good use of the stage is made, with a corridor, and other rooms implied behind semi translucent plastic. Moormaid is set in Berlin, but this flat could be anywhere in Europe, for the issues raised are the ones we all think about, or more accurately fear. Director, Zois Pigadas maintains a level of tension throughout, the cracking of walnuts serving to remind us of the brutal rage brewing just beneath the surface.
There’s a beautifully nuanced and tender performance from Sarah Alles-Shahkarami in the role of Melissa, employing some wit to counter the more serious themes of the play. As Kahn, Ali Azhar is a delightful combination of mysterious figure and impudent spirit.
In the role of Mehdi, it is Moe Bar-El who gives an astounding performance, pulling the character apart in minute detail and reconstructing it again before our eyes. As he slips between compassionate and enraged, to grief stricken and unpredictable, it becomes impossible not to be totally drawn in to the splendor of his performance.
Moormaid tackles an urgent subject, which has become even more prevalent in recent months. The creativity in Bott’s writing means that each new scene in this play comes as a surprise, and you’re never quite sure what to expect. The terror theme has been interlaced with a completely different story arch which ensures Moormaid will be a play not soon to be forgotten.