Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Echoes by Henry Naylor, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Pollock
The grim revelation this month that American aid worker Kayla Mueller was a victim of rape before her death earlier this year while a captive of Islamic State lends this piece of new writing a cutting edge relevance.
“Heaven or Ipswich” is the choice given to two teenage women who each undertake their own religious pilgrimage to the Middle East in very different times.
In the present day, a 17-year-old British Muslim schoolgirl, Samira (Filipa Braganca) travels to Syria to join Islamic State (also known as IS), lured by their online propaganda and contact with their manly fighters, but is “groomed for jihad” as much by Nigel Farage’s unwelcoming rhetoric. Intertwined with this the story of Tillie (Felicity Houlbrooke), travelling to Kabul to be a bride for an officer of the British Empire, declaring with hollow pluck that “my Christian desire is to produce children for the Empire”.
Both find sexual violence is a part of the experience: Tillie experiences marital rape after expressing misgivings about the treatment of the locals; Samira is a victim of “sexual jihad” by a fighter, “married” and then “divorced” after a week (“They hold the guns…” she explains sadly). But neither woman’s will is entirely diminished.
Henry Naylor – a Fringe First winner with The Collector last year – writes with clarity and black humour in terrible circumstances, making the point that the foundation of Western society is itself steeped in the patriarchal barbarism we now rightly decry.
Gilded Balloon (Venue 14), until 31 August, 5:30pm.
Published in The Scotsman on 29 August 2015
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