‘The Half God of Rainfall’ review

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
The Half God of Rainfall, 2019
© Dan Tsantilis Rakie Ayola and Kwami Odoom

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Inua Ellams’s poetic and powerful romp is about a basketball player with divine powers

An impassioned mix of Greek and Yoruba mythology, tied together in an ultra-modern setting, Inua Ellams’s ‘The Half God of Rainfall’ is the story of Nigerian basketball star Demi, who has supernatural powers on the court, and causes flooding and overflowing rivers when he cries. Son of Zeus, he is half-man and half-god, full of ambition to win the Olympics. But divine powers are outlawed from mortal sports and Demi’s magical abilities soon put him in the celestial spotlight. He is forced into a confrontation with the angry gods; with his mother Modupe’s love to power him, he must face the mortal challenge of dealing with these all-powerful beings.

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



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