Angel: tribute to a Kurdish hero

After the enormous success of his play Echoes at last year’s Fringe, Henry Naylor returns this year with Angel, the final part of his Middle East trilogy. The play tells the true story of a young woman nicknamed Angel, a Kurdish law student turned sniper who is said to have killed over 100 ISIS fighters during the siege of Kobane in 2014.

The play explores the horrific realties of the war against ISIS, and paints a compelling picture of how a young girl becomes a soldier. We see her grow up, learn to shoot and join the YPJ, the all-female brigade of the Kurdish YPG forces. In one scene, we see her take heart from the fact that ISIS fighters believe they won’t go to paradise if they’re killed by a woman.

For a play about the fight against ISIS, with shocking scenes depicting its barbaric treatment of women, it is surprisingly funny. Naylor, having some background in comedy, has a knack for injecting humour into an otherwise deadly serious subject. There are numerous references to Beyoncé and William Shatner, and various characters confuse Mariah Carey for Marie Curie. Even its dark ending is lifted by an absolute corker of a last line.

The lead performance from Filipa Bragança, who also starred in Naylor’s Echoes, is superb. Balancing the comedy and tragedy of the play, she makes Naylor’s script feel all the more engrossing, and real.

★★★★☆

Christian Butler is a writer based in London.

Angel is at the Gilded Balloon Teviot until 29 August.

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