Angel by Henry Naylor

A bare stage. A barrel. And a woman, Rehana, the Titular Angel of Kobane. With these components Pipeline productions weaves a brutal story of war and devastation which is largely effective in transporting you into the heart of the bloody and violent world of war in the Middle East. Telling the story of Rehana, a young girl whose plans for a peaceful life are swept away by the Arab spring and the rise of Daesh, this one woman shows jumps from peaceful farmlands, to burnt out towns, and finally to the war-torn streets of Kobane itself.

A compelling performance that sheds light on an important and often forgotten conflict that makes you question your own values.

The script, written by the talented Henry Naylor, creates a strong sense of place and allows the audience an easy entrance into the world our characters inhabit. Despite the story being told entirely from the perspective of Rehana, every character feels fleshed out and three dimensional. No broad caricatures or stereotypes are to be found, despite the subject matter easily allowing for them to slip in. The story itself is completely compelling, addressing the nature of violence and how it interacts with personal morality, raising many important questions about how far one is willing to value life in a world so steeped in death. The story addresses these issues largely successfully, though the script does occasionally lapse into heavy handed tirades that do not feel as natural as the rest of the action. In addition to this, on occasion the text becomes almost too much like prose, stating how characters say lines and providing overlong flowery descriptions of locations which give the impression that the actor is merely reading an abridged novel rather than a play.

Minor script foibles such as these are forgivable when the text is performed so well by Filipa Bragança, who commands the stage with her portrayal of Rehana, giving the character a great deal of humanity that makes her transformation from innocent schoolgirl to hardened soldier all the more believable. Bragança is also fully able to give personality and recognisable quirks to all of the supporting characters in her tale, and at no point does the audience’s attention waver.

From a technical perspective the show shines as well, with subtle lighting design accentuating the mood of each scene and aiding Bragança to differentiate the distinctive locales of the story. Meanwhile, a solid sound design creates an appropriate mood for each scene.

All in all, Angel is a compelling performance that sheds light on an important and often forgotten conflict that makes you question your own values. I’d say that this makes it more than worth the price of admission. 

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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The Blurb

Kobane, 2014: there’s a siege as fierce as Stalingrad. ISIS, having steam-rollered through Iraq, expect to take the town easily. But the citizens have found a heroine: a crackshot sniper, with 100 kills to her name. And she appears indestructible. She’s the Angel of Kobane. Fringe First-winning Naylor’s last play, Echoes, transferred off-West End and Off-Broadway, won seven major international Fringe awards and received 26 four and five-star reviews included the Australian, Guardian, Scotsman, Sunday Mail, Sunday Times, and Times. ‘A hugely impressive play’ (Mark Lawson). Best Theatre, Adelaide 2016. Spirit of the Fringe, Edinburgh 2015.