With its booming population, and key position between the worlds of Islam and the west, Istanbul is one of the great global cities of the 21st century, and the site of some of its most intense struggles; so it’s hardly surprising that leading Turkish actress Yesim Ozsoy has a fascinating story to tell, in this show based on the recent history of her own family.
House of Hundred, C Aquila, Edinburgh * * *
Through the story of the Istanbul house they lived in - an old, unheated Ottoman palace, largely abandoned after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 - she surveys the last century of Turkish history, from the war of independence after 1918, through the coming of the modern Turkish republic interrupted by a series of military coups, to today’s fierce divisions, setting supporters of basic human rights and free speech against the authoritarian Erdogan government; and she uses a whole range of theatrical means - from her own monologue, through filmed interviews with older family members, to animations, atmospheric film sequences shot in the old palace, and the fine accompanying score and music of Kivanc Sarikus, played live on stage - to convey the story.
In the end, the central conceit of the show - which has Ozsoy speaking in the voice of various artefacts around the house, from a curtain and a vase to a beautiful piece of jewellery - just seems too whimsical to contain the weight of the material, and never quite works. Along the way, though, this melancholy and memorable show hints powerfully at all the magnificent stories contained in the fabric of this inimitable city; and at the dangers we face, if we fail to understand them.
Until 25 August