Theatre review: 1917: A Phantasmagoria

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: From a pale shroud emerges a man clad entirely in white: white greasepaint, white suit and tie and white trainers.

Sweet Holyrood (Venue 94)


After a few false starts in French and German, he says in English (with the unmistakable baritone of an Ac-tor) that he is “the spirit of 1917” – and proceeds to relate the most notable events of that year to an audience with a whole century’s hindsight.

There’s a lot on the First World War, which understandably grabbed a lot of headlines in 1917: Passchendaele, Siegfried Sassoon, Mata Hari, Edward Thomas and Vera Brittain are all evoked, as is the 100-strong Canadian regiment who surprised the Germans by dressing in women’s nightclothes. Elsewhere, Lenin led the October Revolution, Finland gained independence, Baghdad fell to the British, an African American named Ell Persons was lynched in Tennessee and the Balfour Declaration called for the creation of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

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These disconnected vignettes never add up to anything beyond their shared year, but it’s an enlightening and frequently entertaining hour. It also serves as a reminder that 2016 – for all the laments about celebrity deaths and political upsets – was not a remarkable year by historical standards.

Until 27 August. Today 4:15pm.