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  • Published in Arts Review

Angel. Photo: Debatable Space

Angel is the deeply moving and memorable story of a heroic female Kurdish sniper in Syria

Angel, the Edinburgh smash hit by Henry Naylor lands in Dalston’s Arcola and is one of the most devastating productions currently in the capital.

Avital Lvova’s muscular performance carries the entire production in this one-woman show with incredible dramatic and physical agility. Lvova plays Rehana, the sniper known as the Angel of Kobane, the Kurdish-Syrian town under siege by the approaching Isis forces.

A legend not unlike the Soviet hero Lyudmila Pavlichenko — who totted up an extraordinary number of nazi kills (309) — the modern-day Angel is rumoured to have killed 100 Isis fighters. The seige of Kobane bears parallels with the bloody battle of Stalingrad and has some of the fiercest fighting against Isis.

Like the Red Army, the YPG, (People’s Protection Units) a predominantly Kurdish force, is open to women and contains many of the area’s best troops. Part of the legend that surrounds the Angel and other female fighters, is that Isis fighters fear death at their hands as they’ll not be martyred and receive the 72 virgins allotted to them.

While some dispute this, it can easily be believed as the kind of superstitious talk of troops in battle and is a reminder of the ruthless misogyny of Islamic State.

The play begins in Rehana’s early years as she shoots cans of Orangina from a log as target practice, while moaning at her father for dragging her into the fields to shoot, longing for a peaceful, secular life listening to Beyonce and studying law.

Events overtake her and she becomes a refugee as fighting erupts around her family farm. Heading back into the conflict zone to rescue her father, she ends up fighting alongside her YPG comrades.

In one of the most heartbreaking scenes, Rehana learns that all the target practice with dad has paid off, she’s a good shot, but also has a shocking ability to kill.

With tears in her eyes Rehana points into the audience, sentencing the guilty, the fundamentalists and the innocents caught up in the war to death.

The girl, who forced her dad to sing All the Single Ladies in her youth, dies with every kill. Angel, is an incredible achievement.

Ends October 7 2017. Box office (020) 7503-1646.

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