FRINGE 2017: Angel by Henry Naylor – Holden Street Theatres – 4.5K

There is a war happening right now. People are fleeing, people are fighting, people are dying. On the other side of the world, we often only see the “after” images – the destruction and rubble, the streets deserted but for a handful of men with guns, and the nameless dead bodies. This can accentuate the divide we feel from them – increase the denial that their dreams, their lives, their families are just like ours. Angel reminds us of this in a way that images in a newspaper or TV report never could.

Angel is the third play in what writer Henry Naylor describes as his “Arabian Nightmares” trilogy. This production has been brought to Adelaide as the winner of the Holden Street Theatre’s Edinburgh Fringe Award, and HST and Martha Lott should once again be praised for providing local audiences with the opportunity to see such a fantastically written and performed piece of theatre.

Rehana (Avital Lvova) lives on her family farm near the Syrian/Turkish boarder. Her hopes of becoming a lawyer are at odds with those of her father, who believes she should focus more on learning practical skills useful to farm life, like shooting a gun, than on her text books. When Daesh forces (ISIS) invade her town, Rehana’s desperate attempts to be reunited with her father lead this intellectual pacifist into a new unimaginable life, where Beyoncé and schoolwork are replaced with desperation and death.

And the deaths come. Though not unexpected, there’s always an element of shock to them, of horror, but also of inevitability. You feel the loss, but just as quickly the story moves on. Just as it is for Rehana, the audience is given no time to catch their breath, no time to mourn. The poetic prose of Naylor, and the physicality of Lvova, fill the blank stage with impactful images, and accentuate that the small details of life are just as important as the major incidents.

In Rehana’s dual vulnerability and strength we witness the truly human face of the conflict. Amongst the horror and destruction, there is also love and humour, and a feeling of empowerment. Angel doesn’t try to sugar coat anything but it reminds us that though the evil in the world can seem overpowering at times, that doesn’t mean you don’t fight it.

Kryztoff rating: 4.5K

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