Monday, April 25, 2016

ECHOES by Henry Naylor at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Filipa Braganca and Felicity Houlbrooke in ECHOES.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Both Felicity Houlbrooke and Filipa Braganca are exceptionally talented actresses and both deliver truly spectacular performances in Echoes, currently enjoying its US premiere at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan as part of this year’s Brits Off Broadway Festival.  But, sad to say, their talents are largely squandered on this play which, despite its success at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is little more than a superficial diatribe seeking to establish the moral equivalence between the excesses of British colonialism and the horrors of Islamic terrorism and proclaiming the eternal victimhood of women and ethnic minorities at the hands of men and Western Europeans.

Tillie (Felicity Houlbrooke) is a 17 year old Victorian pioneer woman from Ipswich who accepts the British Government’s offer of free passage to India in the mid-nineteenth century so that she might marry a soldier and fulfill her responsibility to provide him with offspring to help populate the British Empire.  Samira (Felipa Braganca) is a 17 year old Muslim woman from Ipswich who travels to the Middle East today so that she might marry an Islamist terrorist and contribute to the establishment of a Caliphate   In dueling monologues, Tillie and Samira expound on their ordeals and ultimate disillusionments but without ever really acknowledging any responsibility for their own actions.

To be sure, men must bear much of the responsibility for the exploitation and subjugation of women over the ages and European society must accept responsibility for much of the exploitation of indigenous peoples around the world.  But it is long past time, I think, for us simply to be satisfied with two dimensional attacks on all men and all of Western culture and to examine in greater depth the degree to which women and ethnic minorities may have been complicit in their own victimization.  And Henry Naylor, in penning Echoes, has failed to even approach those questions and has taken the easy way out  – with a couple of gratuitous swipes at Donald Trump and Ted Cruz thrown in for good measure, as if to underscore the fact that the play really is nothing more than an extreme feminist and far left polemic.

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