A Few Forms of Fury is an original piece of writing from Alice Wilson, directed for its first performance by Martha Berkmann. The play centres around the dysfunctional relationship between the Three Furies of Greek mythology, sisters Megaera (Ellen Hendry), Alecto (Matilda Hadcock) and Tisiphone (Lara Deering). When Tisiphone decides that’s she’s had enough of her life as an immortal murderer and runs off with the Three’s next target, Orestes (Alex Grassam Rowe), their troubles bubble up to the surface for an intriguing and amusing hour’s performance.
Sitting down to watch A Few Forms of Fury in the BT Theatre, I was pleased to see that the play had nearly sold out entirely for its opening night. This wasn’t surprising, as its promise to ‘reimagine the revenge goddesses of Greek myth as bureaucratic office-workers’ certainly sounded interesting. One of the play’s stand-out scenes was thanks to this very concept, as it introduced the characters of Megaera and Alecto through the physical comedy of their opposing attitudes to office work. The success of this scene, as well as being down to the wonderful performances of Ellen Hendry and Matilda Hadcock, was helped by the set design contrasting the neat desk of Megaera with the horrendously messy desk of Alecto. However, perhaps the play should have issued a warning to members of the audience in Alecto’s line of fire that they were not safe from the various office supplies she would fling their way throughout the course of the show!
Following this introduction, the performance’s comedic aspect lessened slightly. Disappointingly, the play featured many an amusing line which failed to elicit laughs from the audience. It seems that a lot of the humour was lost in the dramatic rather than deliberately comic delivery of a lot of the lines, but I wonder if this was a deliberate choice, keeping its characters grounded to their reality rather than having moments in which the actors almost break character in order to stress the humour in a line. Even if that was the intention, I was nevertheless rather disappointed that the play was more quietly amusing than a laugh a minute.
The play was at its strongest during its monologues, which gave the audience a good insight into the thoughts and motivations of its characters. Performed well by the cast, each monologue offered some essential context to a character’s actions in other scenes, both before and after its delivery. I only wish we’d had an earlier insight into the conflict Tisiphone was facing between her duty to her work and sisters, and her desire for something more. I found her motivations for starting a relationship with Orestes difficult to understand up until her first monologue later in the play. Having said that, Lara Deering excelled at portraying Tisiphone’s crisis of the self. Her uncertain body language and often questioning tone betrayed Tisiphone’s indecision over what she wanted from her immortal existence. I felt that her character was well written as someone who acted impulsively through this crisis but was then troubled by inner conflict following every quickly made decision.
Director Martha Berkman deserves praise for how she uses body language to show the differences between each of the sisters. Just as Tisiphone appears uncertain in her gestures and stance, Megeara is always standing or sitting uptight to show her desire for professional order, while Alecto is always moving or slouching impatiently to show her desire for more chaos. However, whilst the direction is to be praised overall, there were times in which some of the performances appeared to have been driven to be slightly melodramatic.
When it comes to the other performances in the play, Alex Grassam Rowe successfully suggests the vulnerability of Orestes in order to drive the audience to sympathise with him just as Tisiphone does, despite the fact the first thing we learn about him is that he has just killed his mother. Grace Spencer is also good as the Officer, who provides an essential opening narration to explain the context of the Three Furies and the setting of the play. However, I did feel her performance was hampered by how her role following the opening was confusingly written. To begin with I assumed she was as an officer in charge of the furies, but then by the end she seemed to just be there to help them in their tasks.
The play’s narrative is strongest when it highlights the complex contradictions present in The Furies’ duties; complexities which have driven Tisiphone to question the supposed morality of her duty. In order for Tisiphone and her sisters to do the ‘right’ thing, they must kill Orestes as punishment for him having committed matricide. However, in doing so they are performing a similar form of vengeance to that which had inspired him to kill his mother and made him their target in the first place. Tisiphone and the audience begin to question why only the mortal who is doing the vengeance is in the wrong.
Whilst A Few Forms of Fury introduces some really interesting questions of morality and duty as opposed to desire in its script, when it concluded I was left unsure as to what these messages were meant to leave the audience with. The play didn’t seem to feature a clear message or reason for asking these questions, other than that they presented an interesting commentary on the characters adapted from Greek myth for the purposes of this play. Therefore, although the play should be praised for delivering some interesting ideas and its cast should be congratulated for their performances, A Few Forms of Fury left me feeling a little confused as to its point and underwhelmed by its overall story.