Mare Rider at Arcola Theatre
Leyla Nazli’s absorbing new play Mare Rider is set to have audiences rooted to their seats with distilled horror. The production tells the Turkish myth of Elka, a ghastly figure who haunts new mothers. Set in modern times, writer Nazli puts in plain sight the shackles of contemporary women.
Arcola Theatre is pitch black, aside from a gleaming white tiled floor, white hospital bed, white sheets, white curtains, even poor Selma, our protagonist who has just given birth, is wearing a white night gown. The contrast is unsettling.
Kathryn Hunter is haunting as Elka, with bedraggled hair and ragged clothing; though feared, she guides Selma through a journey of awakening. The restrictions of Elka’s youth as a woman contrast harshly with the freedom Selma supposedly has in today’s world, but somehow, Selma is the one trapped.
“Choice,” Elka states, “is the downfall of modern society.” Grappling with the struggles of freedom and expectations to choose a career that pleases you, start a relationship that satisfies you and raise a family has left Selma distraught. Nazli cleverly weaves the very personal story of Selma and her husband Mark’s unstable relationship into this disturbing social commentary.
The play’s director, Mehmet Ergen, controls light and shadow to tell the story of Elka’s youth, swiftly and effectively transporting the audience out of modern day. There is an element of black comedy in Elka’s character – her perception of Selma’s world creates light relief from the dark subject matter but also makes the audience ill at ease.
Nazli offers a truly stunning insight into the mind of the modern day woman, and the race of time against hopes and fears. With the help of Elka, she makes these nightmares reality.
Mare Rider is at the Arcola Theatre until 16th February 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.