Rehana (Yasemin Özdemir) is a young girl from the town of Kobane in Northern Syria. We meet her in 2014: she has dreams of being a lawyer but her father wants her to take over the farm. After a run-in with some local boys, he pulls her out of school and teaches her how to shoot. A few short months later she comes to be known as the ‘Angel of Kobane’; a Kurdish fighter rumoured to have killed over 100 Islamic State militants.
Rehana is likely a myth, a battlefield legend, perhaps even a piece of propaganda, designed to scare. Henry Naylor’s Angel takes this myth and brings Rehana’s story to life. His script is strong and weaves humour throughout the many serious moments. Even as the war expands and locations change we are kept up with events; given everything we need to know. Under the direction of Peter Doran Angel moves along at a fast pace but without ever feeling rushed or leaving the audience behind.
There is particularly good work also in the lighting (Andrew Sturley), with subtle effects showing changes in day and time that are also perfectly lined up with big moments in the script. The set is simple: two walls for hiding behind or sitting on and a single wooden box as a prop.
It is in the hands of Özdemir that this play becomes something more. Her stage presence is immense as she throws herself (literally at times) into her role and into the cast of characters. She clearly and brilliantly differentiates every one, each given a different voice and mannerism. At times her movements are exaggerated to emphasise the change; a rapid twirl and she is now someone else – but it is always clear who she is. At times, her body language is so clear and explicit that we know who she has become before the character even speaks. This is just a part of her skill. She brings depth and emotion to Rehana as we follow her journey, from fleeing Kobane to her eventual return home under very different circumstances. At the end of the evening it is obvious how much effort, physically and emotionally, Özdemir has put into telling us Rehana’s story.
Angel is a fine play. The script is excellent throughout, whilst this production is well directed, well staged, and would be deserving of a good review on those merits alone. Even with a lesser performer, the show is well worth seeing. Here though, Özdemir’s Angel makes it take flight, leaving no doubt of her talent.
Written by Henry Naylor
Directed by Peter Doran
Lighting by Andrew Sturley
Angel plays at The Hope Theatre until 17 September. Further information and bookings can be found here.