Theatre review: Forbidden Stories, Traverse, Edinburgh

Working between Edinburgh and Cyprus, Ludens Ensemble are well known on the capital's fringe theatre scene for their shake-ups of classics such as Macbeth and Ubu Roi. With this latest show, though, they move into new territory, constructing a careful and passionate verbatim drama '“ based on real-life testimonies '“ about the shocking partition of Cyprus that followed the Turkish invasion of 1974, itself provoked by a Greek-dominated island government which had proposed a complete union with Greece.

Forbidden Stories
Forbidden Stories

Forbidden Stories, Traverse, Edinburgh ***

Yet despite the crisis of the 1970s – still unresolved 45 years on – Cyprus remains an island with a rich history of peaceful cohabitation; and with the help of the city of Paphos, European Capital of Culture 2017, Ludens have created a fragmented but haunting 75-minute reflection – with powerful, understated visual imagery and sound – on the human tragedy of a partition that displaced 200,000 Greek Cypriots from the north of the island and 60,000 Turkish Cypriots from the south.

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The performance style is sometimes hesitant, not least because only one of the four performers is working in her mother tongue.

There’s no resisting the power of these stories of return, though, as a younger generation seize rare opportunities to cross the green line and revisit the homes from which their families were driven more than a generation ago.

In an ideal world, Cyprus – now a member of the EU – could become a model of how to heal old wounds; but in an age when incitement of conflict and contempt for compromise is becoming a new normal among world leaders, the task of nurturing peace falls increasingly to ordinary citizens, and not least to artists like Ludens, who seek to advance understanding, in good times and bad.