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Forbidden Stories

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

Imagine a country ripped in two as easily as you’d tear a piece of paper in half. Then imagine hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes and forced into the other half of the country. Fast forward a few years, and think about what might happen if some kind of prodigals’ return ushered in an uneasy peace of sorts.

That’s only part of the complex, still unfinished history of Cyprus, the former British colony (natch) riven by divisions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots that have resulted in invasions, land grabs and a mess of collateral damage. The deeply personal consequences of all this are explored here by the Edinburgh-based Ludens Ensemble. With support by the European Capital of Culture Pafos 2017 and the Greek arts-based Syn Festival, a four-strong ensemble present a semi-verbatim collage of anecdote and experience drawn from testimonies from both sides of the divide. Accompanied by live video feed, shadowplay and a fusion of traditional and contemporary music, this makes for an at times moving experience.

Up to now, the Ludens Ensemble have focused on making wilfully scrappy versions of classic plays such as Ubu and Macbeth. Under the guidance of co-directors Philippos Philippou and Vangelis Makriyannakis, the company have here entered more meditative waters which has given their work strength and power that stems from its raging calm.

Despite the specific locale of the events related, given recent happenings, it couldn’t be more relevant in highlighting the human damage caused by a territorial tribalism that demonises otherness. With plans afoot to effectively take this home to Pafos, Ludens have created a bittersweet dramatic elegy which the cast are clearly still emotionally bound up with in an act of collective purging that comes from the frontline.

The Herald, May 22nd 2018

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