ANGUIS | Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Olivier Award-winning actor Sheila Atim’s debut play is a real feast for the mind. It opens with the beautifully simple construct of a studio-recorded interview, allowing for the often highbrow dialogue to be interspersed with songs, sung sweetly and harrowingly by Paksie Vernon. Her character very quickly turns out to be Cleopatra, dead lady Pharaoh, which somehow isn’t weird, only funny and interesting. This is down to the merit of the writing and acting combined — the script reaches rousing heights of poetry and intellect, between drab, real conversation and dry, laugh-out-loud wit.

The surrealism of one historic, deceased lead playing opposite a living contemporary one becomes potentially even more complex when trauma and ghostly unreality seep into the mix. But it just works. And Janet Kumah’s doctor-come-interviewer is every bit as powerful, and interesting, as the famous dead ruler.

Like the initial construct, the set (by Bex Kemp) is also beautifully simple, with sound-absorbing foam inside the recording studio cut like brown sugar cubes. This play is about many things, but the intersections between race, sex and class are gorgeously and painfully explored.

Special mention for Peter Losasso’s clueless but crucially likeable white male supporting role — he offsets the two lead powerhouses and gives respite, but also highlights that not everybody can experience everything this play is about, as choosing not to engage in the hard stuff is a privilege of the ignorant. Definitely go and see this show if you are sharp-minded and have any interest whatsoever in truth.

Playing 3pm at the Gilded Balloon Teviot until 26 August 2019.

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