Moormaid, Arcola Theatre – Review

Moormaid, Arcola Theatre (Sarah Alles and Moe Bar-El) - courtesy of Anika Wagner
Sarah Alles and Moe Bar-El / © Anika Wagner

Exploring amongst other things the relationship between emotions, art and war, Moormaid is not easy to pigeonhole. Written by Marion Bott and directed by Zois Pigadas, at its heart is Melissa (Sarah Alles) – a young, married art teacher in Berlin.

Looking at her students’ attempt at conveying the ‘Androgynous’ (in the truest, Greek myth-sense of the word) Melissa is appalled at what she sees – more like the monstrosities of fables, than of the unity of soulmates.

We’re immediately intrigued by her domestic routine, including her penchant for crushing unshelled nuts with a bottle of booze. But it’s her red kashmir scarf that piques our interest the most. Hanging it from the ceiling, she contemplates “What if…” But fate intervenes, as Melissa receives a phone call from Mehdi (Moe Bar-El) a former student…

To hear Mehdi’s opening speech, one would think that Melissa’s state of mind was ‘revealed’ to him and that he was sent to her apartment to save her – to be her Good Samaritan, her guardian angel. However, as the play reveals, he’s wrestling with his own ‘demons’ – or more specifically his dead ‘brother’ Khan (Ali Azhar). Two’s company, three’s a crowd. And for this particular trio, there’s more than enough grief, guilt and anger to go around.

Moormaid, Arcola Theatre (Ali Azhar and Moe Bar-El) - courtesy of Anika Wagner
Ali Azhar and Moe Bar-El / © Anika Wagner

‘Hopkirk’ to Mehdi’s ‘Randall’, Khan is stuck in between our plane of existence and the next, and wants to ‘move on’. However, Mehdi’s guilt keeps him there, the reasons for which are divulged over time. Melissa’s response to finding out about some of these things is interesting the incident awakening dormant feelings within her, and pushing the themes of truth and closure to the fore.

In some ways, Mehdi and Khan exemplify an exaggerated type of masculinity and their conversations (if not their experiences) reflect this. Both quote ad nauseum their favourite film Scarface and the dynamic between them reflects that of the film’s principal characters Tony and Manny. Identifying with the characters’ status as outsiders in the West who want to make their mark on the world, Khan and Mehdi go overseas to train and fight…

Moormaid, Arcola Theatre (Moe Bar-El and Sarah Alles) - courtesy of Anika Wagner_4
Moe Bar-El and Sarah Alles / © Anika Wagner

For Mehdi, it’s not what he was spurred on to do that haunts him – it’s what he gladly did of his own volition. For him, Melissa represents an unsullied part of his old life, his soul that he’ll never get back…

While Melissa’s unhappiness may act as a magnet for other lost souls, by helping Mehdi to express himself non-verbally through painting, he’s able to do the ‘bravest’ thing he’s ever done face the truth about himself and what he’s done.

In return, he’s able to challenge Melissa about words and concepts she’s taken for granted, endowing her with a brand new perspective on life. Together they complete each other, like the ‘Androgynous’ of old.

© Michael Davis 2018

Golden stars rating template isolated on white background.

Moormaid runs at Arcola Theatre until 19th May 2018.

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