The Glow, Royal Court Theatre, London review ✭✭✭

Last Updated on 5 February 2022 by Showcall Editorial Team

Mark Ludmon reviews Alistair McDowall’s new play, The Glow, at the Royal Court Theatre in London

Glow Royal Court
Fisayo Akinade and Ria Zmitrowicz in The Glow at the Royal Court. Photo: Manuel Harlan

The Glow
Royal Court Theatre, London
Three stars

With his earlier plays such as Pomona, Brilliant Adventures and X, Alistair McDowall tapped into science fiction to tell stories not often seen on stage. For The Glow, he has gone down a similar route but this time drawing more on supernatural fantasy for a beguiling look at loneliness and immortality. He throws spiritualism, time travel, reincarnation and mythology into the mix to create a darkly entertaining tale that explores themes familiar to lovers of sci-fi and fantasy.

Glow royal court Rakie Ayola
Rakie Ayola in The Glow at the Royal Court. Photo: Manuel Harlan

The play is an ingenious piece of myth-making, best appreciated by subsequently reading an explanatory essay by a Professor Helen Cullwick from the University of Irwell in the back of the programme/text. The fractured narrative opens in 1863 in a psychiatric “asylum” where Mrs Lyall, a “spiritualist medium”, has found a woman she believes will be a perfect conduit for communicating with the spirits. After taking her home, Mrs Lyall and her son, Mason, find out there is much more to this nameless woman than they realised.

Glow Royal Court
Tadhg Murphy and Ria Zmitrowicz in The Glow at the Royal Court. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Rakie Ayola and Fisayo Akinade are excellent playing several different characters – different but possibly linked – while Tadhg Murphy combines fierce brutality and gentleness as Haster. As the mysterious woman, Ria Zmitrowicz has an ethereal quality, switching between vulnerability and terrifying power. Like the narrative, the mostly bare stage shifts and changes, with Merle Hensel’s angular design complemented by shadow and lighting designed by Jessica Hung Han Yun and video projection by Tal Rosner. Directed by Vicky Featherstone, The Glow is taut and gripping, proving how the worlds of science fiction and fantasy are not just for books and the screen.

Running to 5 March 2020. Tickets on sale now.

Glow Royal Court
Fisayo Akinade and Ria Zmitrowicz in The Glow at the Royal Court. Photo: Manuel Harlan
About Mark Ludmon 318 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre, hospitality and drinks after starting in regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He is a former panellist for the Olivier Awards. He tweets at @MarkLudmon.