Theatre review: Dead Equal, Army at the Fringe with Summerhall, Edinburgh

Dead Equal, Army at the Fringe with Summerhall (Venue 210)
Dead Equal, Army at the Fringe with Summerhall (Venue 210)
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In 1914, two uniformed women meet upon the battlefields of First World War Serbia.

Dead Equal, Army at the Fringe with Summerhall, Edinburgh * * *

Nine decades later in 2007, two more women are posted in the midst of the British Army’s operation in Afghanistan. Linking them is the same person, Emily Simmonds, who serves in both conflicts; the concept of librettist Lila Palmer and composer Rose Miranda Hall’s opera not being to present a tale of time travel, but rather to show how the experiences of female medics in combat has changed over a century. That the two women are one and the same is somewhat incidental, and serves more as a linking device and a point of historical background which allows Palmer to perform both characters.

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During the First World War Simmonds was one of the only female nurses to enter combat, and afterwards she was involved in tending to refugees and providing aid, a contribution which history has largely forgotten; she is joined here by Flora Sandes (Teiya Kasahara), the first British woman to serve as an infantry soldier during the First World War. In the present, Simmonds and soldier Jo Ekpe (Simone Ibbett-Brown) are created from composite interviews with serving soldiers. Both sets of stories are told with passion and great ability from the three performers, although the method of delivery does detract from the finer detail of these well-researched tales.

Until 25 August

David Pollock

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