Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: The Morphea, Rowenna Mortimer, Bloomsbury Festival 2023 ★★☆☆☆

The Morphea is what I would call an ambitious project. Myths are such for a reason, they evoke a sense of familiarity, of uncertainty, and still pass the test of time. Unfortunately for the production of The Morphea, I am not sure how true this will be. 

To start with the positives Ella McCormack who plays the eponymous Morphea holds her own on a large stage. Her acting, particularly her physicality, is great. The role itself is not easy, it requires the performer to release their inhibitions and McCormack does so well. It is clear that movement director Sally Marie had a clear vision of the Morphea’s swan meets human character and worked closely with McCormack to bring the vision to life. Micah Baker, as the drummer, brought a great sense of energy to the show. It was at times a welcome distraction to watch his performance alongside McCormack. The lighting was great, an incredible way to supplement the characters Morphea speaks with and intuitive design to create a sense of place and space. In these stylistic elements, The Morphea shines. 

However, as the play goes on I feel as if the writing continues to leave the audience out. I kept waiting for the crucial information which allowed us in, gives us a clue to connect the dots but I was left waiting. As I began to piece the story together, I realised I felt detached to the story. 

I think the main reason was down to the writing, the abrupt beginning coupled with the gaps in information made it difficult to empathise with Morphea. At times I felt as if I understood her urgency, her restlessness and her desire to roost and refuge. But I didn’t care whether she achieved it- to put it bluntly. The character’s naivety felt cloying, Her frustrations with the bureaucracy of these ‘illegitimate’ rules which dictated her life translated into my frustrations with her childlikeness. As she undergoes her metamorphosis into her swan like regality I feel as if I hardly learnt who she was before she changed. 

Admittedly mythology isn’t meant to evoke empathy, how can we see ourselves in Titans and Gods? However, at times The Morphea was very much grounded in reality. It interchanged between this mythological world and a very real place here alongside the canals in between the very real crisis of rent and the right to roam which restricts us all. I still felt detached. Even the wars of gods allows us to reflect on the arbitrary human emotions which dictate our lives but The Morphea did not draw the same emotion for me. 

However, I applaud The Morphea team for trying something new. Writer and Director Rowena Mortimer’s writing is so unlike anything on stage right now, its experimentalism is a welcome distraction from an age of remakes and rewriting and I congratulate that.

Recommended Drink: Cup of tea. Just because it was not my taste, doesn’t mean it won’t be yours.

Want to see if you disagree? Catch The Morphea on the 15th of October at RADA Studios, Chenies Street at 17:00.

Aditi Mohan

Our Race, Ethnicity & Culture Editor & London Editor. Obsessed with the Postcolonial world. Aditi likes to look at how theatre and comedy reflects today’s world of multiplicity. She’s keen to watch any kind of theatre or performance but comedy is her go to, because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.

Festivals: Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Bloomsbury Festival (2023)
Pronouns: She/Her