Theatre review: Anguis, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh

Anguis 3 stars, Gilded Balloon Teviot  (Venue 14)
Anguis 3 stars, Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)
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IN A PODCAST recording studio in 21st century London, Kate passes the time by interviewing great women of the past.

Anguis, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh * * *

She needs a distraction, because she is waiting for what could be a terminal verdict on her career as a clinical virologist, now threatened by an accusation of negligence that has led to her suspension from her hospital job.

Today, her interviewee - returned from the ancient Egyptian version of paradise - is none other than Cleopatra, the mighty queen who ruled Egypt in the first century BC; and in award-winning actress Sheila Atim’s debut play as a writer, it soon becomes clear that both women are victims of extensive misreporting by men, as Cleopatra contemptuously dismisses the continuing myth of her suicide by asp-bite, and Kate struggles to retain her sanity and composure, as a committee somewhere determines her professional fate.

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Atim’s play has some rich moments of comedy, as Kate shows Cleo images of Elizabeth Taylor and others playing her on stage and screen; and the interview is accompanied by a series of beautiful songs written by Atim, and powerfully sung by Paksie Vernon as Cleo. In the end, the stories of the hugely privileged queen and the stressed-out modern black Londoner never quite come together as strongly as the situation promises; Cleo makes it clear that she has little time for 21st century feminism, or for the idea of women as victims. Yet Janet Kumah is excellent as Kate, Pete Losasso ever-supportive as the studio manager; and the play’s central conversation as intriguing in its possibilities, as it is - in the end - inconclusive.

Until 26 August

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