Henry Naylor is known for satire in his plays and Echoes is by no means exempt.
Through two British women 175 years apart Echoes draws connections between a modern Muslim culture and a colonialist British culture.
One very socially relevant idea prevails: religion not as the cause of evil, but as the facilitator for evil people to do evil things.
The set is simple and the lighting is warm. No sound effects, just us and the actors in an intimately small amphitheatre. There are only two young female characters on stage. Both are bitter about their residency in Ipswich and both are highly religious.
Simitra(Filipa Braganca) is a current day Islamist student working in WHSmith and wears a traditional black hijab. The thick dark humour in her monologue has us laughing at her disgust in the ridiculous state of western culture, more concerned with reading how to be “beach body ready” than about poverty and war in her country. Simitra flees to Syria to follow the will of Allah as a jihadi bride.
Her contrasting character Tillie (played by Felicity Houlbrook) is at surface level a Victorian Christian in a pompous white dress. However Tillie is governed by a higher Christian purpose and travels to Afghanistan as an officer’s wife.
Bachelor number one:
A colonialist husband with a cartoonish love for his country and no aversion to rape and murder.
Bachelor number two:
A Muslim extremist with multiple wives and a love of making humans explode.
Naylor’s antagonists are a touch stereotypical and verge on the unrealistic in their complete dehumanization. However, this does help to highlight the pure good will of religion in the protagonists as they discover their spouses are really just your basic murderous psychopaths.
The protagonists invisibility to each other on stage promotes their similarities to the audience as they both simultaneously experience joy, shame, guilt, anger and liberation. Their sense of duty to defuse the evildoing of their extremist husbands definitely ends with a bang. Ironic or obvious? I’ve yet to decide.
Echoes is a cultural exploration which forces us to realise there are no bad religions, only bad apples.
Venue: Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin St, London E8 3DL
Dates: Monday, 16th to Saturday, 21st November 2015
Time: 8.00pm (Saturday matinee – 3.00pm)
Box office: 020 7503 1646
Tickets: £12.00 / £10.00 concs (2-4-1 offers available on Monday, Tuesday & Saturday matinee)