Angel by Henry Naylor

The third in Henry Naylor’s Arabian Nightmares trilogy, Angel contributes to the contemporary legend of Rehana, the Angel of Kobane. After losing her home to ISIS in July 2014, law-student Rehana joined the resistance. She becomes a greatly feared sniper, not only for her extraordinary number of kills, but because ISIS believe a man killed by a woman cannot enter paradise. Naylor transforms the legend into an emotive and compelling story of a woman struggling to find her father in her war-torn homeland, and coming to terms with what it means to take a stand.

Rehana, who loves Beyoncé and Boston Legal, wants to be a lawyer. While her father believes passionately that men and women are equal, he also wishes for her to remain on his beloved farm and take over when he’s gone. However, he also knows that times are changing in their largely tolerant district, and so, armed with a rifle and packs of Orangina cans, he prepares his daughter for the worst. Avital Lvova gives us a powerful one-woman performance as Rehana, and narrates her story from student to sniper.

Naylor’s tale is not a typical monologue; it is literary and languid, with descriptive prose that paints a vivid picture of Kobani and its war-torn surrounds. For the most part, it transports us the way a good novel does to Rehana’s village in North Syria, a once peaceful farming town close to the Turkish border. We can see the olive trees and the pistachios, then the vultures and bloodied bodies. Sometimes though, the language feels too verbose for the 17-year-old – despite her intelligence – and occasionally trips up Lvova, causing stumbles in moments of tension. Despite this, Lvova is riveting. She weaves narrative and action, switching seamlessly from wide-eyed, pacifist Rehana to ruthless IS soldier, firm but nurturing father, and finally, to the Angel. With just a barrel and her combat gear, Lvova owns the stage, and Michael Cabot’s sparse direction pinpoints our gaze. By the end of the climax, and throughout thunderous applause, Lvova dripped with sweat, tears and snot, evidence of a fully embodied and greatly executed performance. Angel is a must-see for theatre-lovers this Fringe.

★★★★