Thursday, 21 July 2016

Queens of Syria

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
Four stars

Out of the darkness, thirteen Syrian women line up wrapped in a multitude of coloured robes and head-scarves. Speaking in their own language, they become the chorus of Euripides' battle-scarred tragedy, The Trojan Women, telling of fictional peers robbed of everything they had by battles not of their making. This is just a prologue, however, for the series of real life testimonies that come from the frontline of the war these women fled from, seeing refuge in strange lands in what they repeatedly call 'the boats of death'.

Over a brooding minimalist underscore, each woman takes it in turn to read letters, to their parents, children, brothers and sisters they left behind. Delivered directly to the audience, the women's' experiences are still raw, and there are moments when you fear they might not get through it. As their words are undercut by more passages from Euripides, however, the women gain strength from Hecuba, Andromache and Cassandra.

Zoe Lafferty's no-frills production was developed out of a drama therapy project and brought to Edinburgh as part of a UK tour in a collaboration forged by the Developing Artists company, Refuge Productions and the Young Vic. If that suggests a show full of liberal platitudes, think again. As one of the women says, they are not here to entertain us. They are angry, and they have a million stories to tell.

The result of this is a dramatic hymn of fury and sorrow, but which, in its delivery, becomes a fearless and profound act of defiance from a disparate group of survivors. By coming together in this way, they have reclaimed a power that speaks much louder than bombs.

The Herald, July 21st 2016

ends

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