When I kissed the teacher: Moormaid @ArcolaTheatre

Life is too much to bear even when you’re an art teacher with sexy students who undress you with their long gazes. And then let you paint their muscular bodies with acrylic. Well that’s only part of Marion Bott’s play Moormaid which is having its premiere at the Arcola Theatre

Layered with meaning, there’s much passion and drama in the piece. But it’s the performances by the two leads that make it unmissable. Even if at times you’re admiring the piece for for its aesthetics over a coherent story.

It’s late night in Berlin. Melissa (Sarah Alles) is an art teacher on the edge. Her husband is away and she’s due to exhibit her works but has painted nothing in two years. Full of despair she is about to do something drastic when there’s a knock on the door. It’s a former student Medhi (Moe Bar-El). He’s had a dream and had to see her. 

But he’s not exactly her saviour. He dropped out of her life two years ago and has his own demons to face. And a past adventure gone wrong comes to visit him with the arrival of his best friend Khan (Ali Azhar) on the scene.

The intense and sensual performances by Moe Bar-El and Sarah Alles hold your attention here. He’s appeared in television and films but is making his theatrical debut here. Allen from Germany is also making her UK theatrical debut. 

Bar-el dominates the stage with a physical and emotional presence. There’s long gazes and pauses. You’re assuming he’s just a cheeky charmer but then when he grabs Allen you’re not sure if he’ll make love to her or tear her apart.

Writer Marion Bott’s inspiration for the piece came in 2014, when she discovered that two of her old classmates had travelled to Syria to fight for IS. And didn’t come back. But what comes through strongest is how past mistakes and chance encounters can bring you back from the brink. 

This is theatre up close and personal. Provocative and memorable for it’s unique story and performances. 

Directed by Zois Pigadas, Moormaid is at the Arcola Theatre until 19 May.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Photos by Anika Wagner

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