Theatre review: Borders by Henry Naylor

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Henry Naylor’s trilogy about conflict in the Middle East may have been completed last year, with the heart-stopping solo drama Angel about the Kurdish female fighters of northern Syria, but in his latest show he returns to Syria, and how we in the West view conflict and disaster through lenses provided for us by Western cameramen and photographers.

Gilded Ballloon Teviot (Venue 14)

****

So in the city of Homs, in Syria, a young woman we know only as Nameless is growing up without a father, after he became one of the many victims of the Assad regime. By the time of the anti-Assad uprising of 2011, she is in her twenties, a passionate artist expressing her rage at the regime through brilliant graffiti sprayed at night on to the walls of the increasingly devastated city.

Meanwhile, in the West, a young photographer called Simon Nightingale is gradually climbing the greasy pole of media fame, thanks to a series of encounters with a famous veteran war correspondent – until he undertakes one final war-related assignment that brings him face to face with Nameless, at a moment that will define whether she lives or dies, and whether he remains a mere watching eye, or becomes a fully-fledged human being.

The device Naylor uses in this play is a fairly obvious one, in terms of exploring the questionable and often downright exploitative interface between the comfortable West, and those whose misery we watch on screen. Yet the quality of Naylor’s writing is so vivid, and the show’s twin performances by Avital Lvova and Graham O’Mara so intense and perfectly-pitched, that Naylor’s one-hour play seems to contain a whole passionate political disaster movie for our times, full of images delivered entirely through the theatrical spoken word, yet so clear that they live on in our minds, as if we – like Nameless and Simon – had been present to witness them.

Until 28 August. Today 4:30pm.