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Review: Angel, at Arcola Theatre

Spitting Image writer’s adaptation of a true story transports the audience to the epicentre of Syrian resistance against Isis

21 September, 2017 — By Sabrina Dougall

Avital Lvova in Angel. PHOTO: STEVE ULLATHORNE

HENRY Naylor’s tale of a bookish farmer’s daughter who abandons her flight from Isis invasion to find her father is the closest you can get to the Syrian conflict without buying a plane ticket.

The Spitting Image writer’s adaptation of a true story lands at the Arcola Theatre having won awards at three Fringe festivals around the world as the third instalment of Naylor’s “Arabian Nightmares”.

Avital Lvova, in the title role of defiant young sharpshooter, is a rising star, bursting onto the London theatre scene with heaps of talent. An alumna of nearby East 15 acting school, Lvova’s devastating delivery of Rehana’s survival monologue transports its Dalston audience to the epicentre of Syrian resistance against Isis in Kobane.

Naylor’s sense of the zeitgeist and Lvova’s comic timing ensure the urgency of a war halfway across the world suddenly crystalises.

Angel does not shy away from calling sexist attitudes in Islam into question, even to the extent of condemning the belief in the gift of seven virgins in heaven to every faithful man.

A minor criticism would be Lvova’s male character embodiment is not as convincing as her favoured principal role, with most peripheral masculine figures portrayed somewhat similarly.

That said, Lvova renders Rehana’s father with charm and sympathy despite his grave persona, proving she is no one-trick pony.

At times, the simple stage could benefit from some additional bodies. Lacking in light and sound effects, the absence of scenery or projection gives the audience little to look at. A few silent spaces seem obvious opportunities for director Michael Cabot to create a soundscape, but a vapour machine and some spotlights is as far as the stagetech goes.

However, Lvova’s laser-focus eye contact and striking emotional presence is often more than enough to engulf the audience. Her final impassioned speech is nothing short of inspiring, calling into question the true meaning of victory and legacy.

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