Entertainment Hive 2020

Echoes by Henry Naylor

Holden Street Theatres, The Arch, until Sunday, March 13

Review by Honey B

Is the dress white gold, blue black or maybe it is black and white? Henry Naylor’s thought-provoking play Echoes is the story of two women born 175 years apart. These 17 year old girls, one dressed in black and the other in white, are not so different even though one is a modern day student jihadi and the other a Victorian intellectual. Both are from the Ipswich in the UK and their contrasting stories are beautifully interlaced through finely nuanced writing and spine-tingling, passionate performances by the two lead actresses – Felicity Houlbrooke and Filipa Branganca. Samira (Filipa Braganca) is a shy teen with a trusting heart and she is looking for love and adventure – more than her everyday life of school and work. She is “groomed for jihad’’ by her much more politically aware friend. While Tillie (Felicity Houlbrooke) is highly educated and too smart for the men she is dating, but she is under pressure from her family to settle down and get married. She travels to Afghanistan as the bride of an officer of the British Empire – with her main job to produce children for that empire. Samira leaves for Syria without her parent’s knowledge ready to marry an IS fighter and also produce children bound to the cause. Both women have no idea what they are walking into in these foreign lands and they do not know the men they have given themselves over to. Sexual abuse is a part of the women’s stories as they strive to uphold themselves against their bleak backdrops. They are married to violent husbands, they know their duties as women and they both stand up and fight with all of their will against the injustices that they come to see and understand. Not only do they stand up to their husbands but they try to open the eyes of those around them. The similarities between the stories are heartbreaking and shocking. Has nothing changed in 175 years? Naylor’s mastery of the written word is superb as he adds such texture and layering to this story that is such a delicate dance between the two women. Houlbrooke and Branganca hold the audience’s attention for every second of the play with both giving passionate, nuanced and mind-blowing performances. Every move simply added to the weight of this play, every word counted and the two actresses performed with every fibre of their being as the audience hung on every syllable. Branganca was bright, witty and fierce in her performance and Houlbrooke was passionate, graceful and also wilfully strong. This is an eye-opening, thought-provoking piece of relevant theatre which shows the plight of women across time and religion. Echoes is a must-see play this Fringe season.
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