Angel is based on the true story of a Kurdish woman whose life was flipped on its head following the rise of ISIS in the region. The play starts when Angel is a young girl and her father tells her to shoot their dog, who has been badly injured by a jackal. From this intense opening we learn more about her life growing up as a teenager. Perhaps the most disconcerting part of this play is how normal everything first seems. She shares jokes with her family, works hard to get a place at law school: she could just as easily be any old Durham student. But soon news of ISIS and their spread heralds a breakneck descent into hell. At only an hour in length it’s not the longest play but that doesn’t mean it packs any less of a punch.
Angel delivers a shocking, inside perspective of one of the worst modern conflicts and the portrayal of life before war only amplifies the sense of horror. The story is told through an hour long monologue with some beautiful lines, superbly delivered by Gayaneh Vlieghe. Her ability to flick between characters at will was both impressive and enjoyable to watch. The play felt a lot like listening to a friend who’s just very, very good at telling a great story and Gayaneh deserves a lot of credit for what she was able to achieve.
The performance is equally impressive given the totally minimal set. The audience and the actress are together, in the same small room and there is nothing and no one except for Angel and the various characters who she meets throughout her life. And although we never directly see the war-torn landscape and its inhabitants this is only really a positive as we are made to focus ever more intently on Angel’s incredible story-telling. And this is really the greatest asset of the play. It brings to life an otherwise unknown story that is in equal parts inspiring, terrifying and heartbreaking.
Additionally, I feel that I should also give credit to the tech team. Simple things like bathing the stage in a hot, blood-red light are small but were used for great effect at just the right times. The whole performance has been very well put together and the entire team should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished.
Being based on such a recent and significant event I suppose there may even be the odd political message or two tucked away in the play. And I dare say a more informed reviewer might even pick up on them. However, all I can really say about Angel is that, at the end of the day, it’s just a great story, superbly told.
Sightline Productions’ Angel is on 31st January, 2nd and 3rd February at 8pm in Hatfield College’s Birley Room.