Echoes is an evocatively written two-hander from Spitting Image writer Henry Naylor. Interwoven monologues tell the stories of two women, separated by 175 years but united by parallels in their stories. Both disillusioned with their home town of Ipswich – Victorian era Tessie is down due to the lack of eligible bachelors and modern day Samira is angered by the one-sided representation of Muslims in the press – the two women embark on journeys to foreign lands to do service to their faith by marrying a man.
Through the two stories Naylor draws parallels between Victorian pioneers and today’s Jihadis in their treatment of women, offered free passage overseas to be brides. Performers Felicity Houlbrooke and Filipa Braganca offer compelling performances and handle the complex subject matter beautifully. Moments of humour help endear the characters to us, and break up the dark trajectory of the stories.
As a white British audience member I found myself more interested in Samira’s tale, as this is a story I haven’t heard before, but I found it somewhat problematic. Primarily I found Samira very quickly and easily convinced into travelling to Syria. I wanted more depth from Samira’s story; how does a young woman from a seemingly intelligent background, with a mother promoting independence and getting a good job so quickly decide she wants to be a Jihadi bride?
Echoes seems to me to be about the endless cycle of repeating mistakes throughout history. It’s about the humanity, and errors, that unite us all regardless of faith. Religion and the patriarchy are, however, huge topics to join together in such a short space of time. For me this led to some confusion over the message of the play.
The recourse for both women to escape the terrible violence they suffer is to resort to violence, of the kind they’re condemning in the men. This, ultimately, leads to their demise. This is problematic for me. Yes, women have and still do suffer at the hands of men, but what is the message here? That women can only escape this by self destructing? That women will constantly suffer with no way out? I just wasn’t sure, and I found this troubling.
Echoes is playing at The Rialto Theatre as part of Brighton Fringe Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 May, 6pm. Tickets can be found on the Brighton Fringe website.