Inua Ellams’s poetic and powerful romp is about a basketball player with divine powers
This is a moving, contemporary epic on a small scale, with universes and gods brought vividly to life in director Nancy Medina’s fervent production. Max Johns’s black marble-like design at first feels empty, the undressed and exposed set raw in its minimalism. But its simplicity is also its beauty and it is soon filled with Rakie Ayola and Kwami Odoom’s powerful performances as Modupe and Demi. Ayola and Odoom’s incredible skill and physical embodiment of gods and mortals paint the space with colour and emotion, alongside Jackie Shemesh’s creative use of lighting. With the stage stripped so bare, Ellams’s exquisite writing has the platform to shine, the text rich in emotion and meaning. The multiple characters he has created are a masterclass in dialogue: every word spoken by the actors is a polished, delicious delight, offering intensity and humour in equal measure.
Ellams’s exploration of mythology offers a clear analogy between angry gods wreaking havoc and the violence by men in reality; that women are still abused by men in positions of power speaks volumes about the extent of present-day structural inequality. With the body as a metaphor for the history of violence and racism, ‘The Half God of Rainfall’ shines a light on this dark imbalance of power, and from a vengeful celestial universe, it shows us that alongside the destruction there is also a very human story about survival and love.
By: Zoe Margolis