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Theatre Review: The Glow does not glisten

Alistair McDowall's production is just incomprehensible, writes TIM WALKER

The Glow

The Glow
Royal Court Theatre, London, until March 5

As tempting as it is to write a pretentious, Smart Alec review of Alistair McDowall’s The Glow, I haven’t in all honesty a clue what it’s about. Maybe meaning isn’t a prerequisite for theatre, but I do think it helps. Sit someone in a theatre for 120 minutes and they should at least be given a rough idea about what they’re watching. I was hoping as this one got under way – with Ria Zmitrowicz emerging out of the darkness as a strange, spectral figure in what appears to be a candle-lit castle – it would turn out to be a good, old-fashioned ghost story in the Grand Guignol tradition. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those.

Soon enough, however, it’s switching time and location. One moment it’s a sword-and-sorcery epic with Tadhg Murphy playing a chainmail knight, and then it gets more contemporary, with Fisayo Akinade sparring instead with Zmitrowicz as a camp 1970s historian. It’s easy enough, watching a show like this, to give up on it entirely and to end up rubbishing everyone involved, but Zmitrowicz is clearly an outstanding actress with a remarkable stage presence. The stage design, too, by Merle Hensel is terrific and Vicky Featherstone directs conscientiously.

The Royal Court is going through one of its funny spells, but it’s not over yet. Future productions include Two Palestinians Go Dogging. Watch this space.

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