The Half-God Of Rainfall
Kiln Theatre Spring 2019
A mash-up of Olympian
and Yoruba myths, modern feminism and basketball, Inua Ellams's play
almost works. But it is eventually weighed down by its ambitions,
over-length and abrupt shifts in tone. losing power as it lingers on
for 100 unbroken minutes.
A shorter version,
perhaps part of a
programme of three half-hour fables, might have been more successful.
An unfortunate wager
between the Greek god Zeus and his Nigerian
counterpart leads to Zeus being allowed to have his way with a
Nigerian woman, as was his wont with Leda, Io and other objects of
his transitory desire.
half-immortal child has two
special powers, the ability to weep in torrents and being really good
at basketball. The second takes him to American sports stardom and
eventually to the 2012 Olympics, where Zeus's jealousy leads to the
loss of his ability and the humiliation of the Nigerian basketball
Enraged more by her
son's dishonour than her own, the boy's
mother enlists the aid of Zeus's other victims and the goddesses of
both pantheons to achieve a violent vengeance.
As that summary
suggests, Ellams's play ranges in tone from the heroic through the
mock-heroic, from broad comedy – it turns out that all American
basketball stars are the sons of one god or another – to grand
guignol – the ferocity of the mother's attack on Zeus is truly
But in the process it
repeatedly loses focus, shifting
attention from mother to son and back again, and not always clear
about why it is telling this story.
Under Nancy Medina's
Rakie Ayola carries most of the narrative and emotional weight of the
evening, playing both the mother and, in brief snippets, Everyone
Else, and successfully achieving instant shifts in character and
considerable depth in the more significant roles.
Kwami Odoom has
little to do beyond characterising the boy as an amiable and modestly
goofy teenager, making the character attractive but not substantial
enough to be more than a McGuffin, the thing the others fight for, or
to seem worth the extreme measures his mother takes on his behalf.
The Half-God Of Rainfall is more successful in isolated parts than as a whole, more impressive as a showcase for actor Rakie Ayola than as either fable or drama.
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Review - The Half-God Of Rainfall - Kiln Theatre 2019