Theatre review: A Thousand Doorways

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Dangerous quests are par for the course in traditional folk tales, but American storyteller Diane Edgecomb found herself setting out on one of her own when she travelled to Turkey to record the ancient stories of the Kurds.

C primo (Venue 41)

****

After meeting a young Kurdish refugee in Italy, she began to learn about the oppression of Kurdish ­language and culture by the Turkish authorities: “One of the oldest storytelling ­traditions in the world was vanishing before my eyes”.

So she sets out, with her intrepid carpet-dealer guide, on a quest which takes her to remote mountain villages, past armed guards at checkpoints, in constant fear that her mission will be discovered by the Turkish authorities. It is also a race against time. Some of the saddest moments are those when she sits with an aged storyteller only to find they can no ­longer remember their stories – they have gone untold for too long.

Weaving together some of the ancient tales with the story of her own quest, Edgecomb’s show is well crafted, if, at 90 minutes, a little long, with a few too many digressions. It’s rich in anecdotes: 100-year-old Gulbahar who is learning English on the internet and offers to share her recipes on “Skypee”; a chain-smoking grandmother who needs to be bribed with Marlboros to tell stories; a mountain shepherd who comes to meet her in an American baseball cap and shirt – from two different teams.

But the stories are told with the windows closed for fear of spies, and Edgecomb has to leave one village in haste after the Turkish schoolteacher starts asking too many questions. The power of A Thousand Doorways comes not only from the ancient stories she collects but from the vital contemporary story it tells about the oppression of a culture.

Until 19 August. Today 1:30pm.