By Natasha Bagnall
It was the first performance of Sightline Productions’ ‘Angel’ last night, a play which made its debut at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016 and now graces the stages of Hatfield College. This dramatic monologue, based on a true story, is not only riveting but incredibly powerful; it illuminates the reality of a situation which has become far too comfortably observed through the screens of our televisions.
We are transported to Kobane in 2014, and the play traces the events that took place as IS militants overran the small Syrian town and forced almost all its civilians to flee into Europe. ‘Angel’ follows the life of Rehana, a female Kurdish fighter and witnesses her transformation from innocent child to an independent female fighter who becomes a symbol of resistance against Islamic State, earning the nickname ‘Angel of Kobane’. The tale is told by Rehana herself, providing a narrative that allows an otherwise unfamiliar story to become personal and truly affecting.
Rehana is expertly performed by Gayaneh Vlieghe; she provides a persuading depiction of a strong-willed and ambitious young girl who becomes a driven and empowered young woman, exposed to the harsh realities of life in a war zone. Vlieghe is both convincing and sensitive as she portrays the shocking events of Rehana’s life, capturing the horror and sadness along with moments of teenage rebellion and sarcastic wit perfectly. Her ability to shift between characters is also commendable: Vlieghe displays impressive range as she imitates the voices of men and women, accompanying the impressions with perfect mannerisms which make it surprisingly easy to distinguish between each character. This creates a believable and immersive depiction of Rehana’s life whilst avoiding the monotony a dramatic monologue can often produce.
On stage, there is simply one wooden box to assist Vlieghe in her performance, but this allows her physical versatility to become clear as she uses the single box to become car seats, walls and even a chicken coop. The rest of the possible props are replaced simply by mimicry, and this is the perfect substitute. It avoids clumsy transitions and does not hinder the believability, thanks to Vlieghe’s accurate actions. In technical terms, the production could be perhaps be improved. The lighting choices make sense and create the right atmosphere, but there are perhaps too many transitions which arrive a little too late in trying to keep up with Vlieghe’s pace. Yet, this may become smoother as the performances go on and the technical team have the chance to work with another venue.
Director Hiba Benhamed must be commended for her choice in producing Angel, a refreshing and eye-opening view into a life that is rarely portrayed personally. Gayaneh Vlieghe is talented in transforming a minimalist production into a riveting and powerful tale. Perhaps the ending could be prolonged slightly in order to evoke a stronger audience reaction, as the final scene certainly deserves all the attention it can get. Angel is a moving and enlightening production, celebrating female power whilst simultaneously illustrating the horrifying reality of a life compromised by war.
Image: Sightline Productions