Anguis by Sheila Atim


Anguis tells the story of 2 women, from different times but both with their own struggles, in particular about perception. One is Cleopatra, released from her afterlife for the purpose of the interview and the other is Dr Kate Williams, a Doctor facing being struck off for her negligence.

Set in a recording studio Dr Williams is interviewing Cleo. The focus of the recording is supposed to be centred on female scientists and we learn early on about the contribution Cleopatra made to science in her day and how often this is dismissed. The conversation quickly moves on from science and instead the exchange is about being a woman and the power of the truth. The conversation gets heated as Dr Williams and Cleo disagree in their view, Cleo viewing the world through the rose tinted glasses of privilege and royalty and Dr Williams determined that everyone should be given the chance to succeed, even if they don’t all have the potential. The conversations are intelligent, often philosophical but the device of relating this back to such a powerful female figure in history is a clever one, allowing for context for these theoretical discussions.

Interspersed throughout Anguis is music, written by Sheila Atim and sung by Paksie Vernon who plays Cleo. Vernon’s voice is perfectly suited to this type of music, bluesy and either sung acapella or accompanied on a simple guitar, ensuring that her voice is the focal point. Despite the hauntingly beautiful melodies of all the music I did struggle to relate the purpose of the music to the piece itself.

Dr Williams was played by Janet Kumah and throughout the show we learnt more about her, her inextricable link between her work and her identity and the accusations that have followed her regarding her negligence. Kumah captured both Dr Williams’ strong ideals and confidence in these as well as her breakdown during the interview, leaving her more vulnerable, brilliantly.

Vernon as Cleo was easily believable as a Queen, unwavering confidence and an aura of royalty oozed from her. The simple dress she had on and hr bare foot appearance was a clever choice, not looking out of place in either world, the modern day one of Ancient Egypt.

The concept of Anguis is a clever and interesting one which left the audience with philosophical questions rather than answers. This thought provoking concept coupled with a talented cast and some haunting melodies make Anguis a show I would thoroughly recommend.

Anguish is on at the Dining Room, Gilded Balloon Teviot at 15:00 -16:00. To find out more about Anguis on Avalon’s website.

If you like this review you might also like the reviews of Henry Box Brown, Bryony Kimmings: I’m a Phoenix Bitch and Now That’s What I Call Brexit.

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