Review: (Toronto) The Taliban Don't Like My Knickers (Fringe)
The Good Woman of Afghanistan by Lisa McKeown @lisammckeown
This two-hander is based loosely on the time that British journalist Yvonne Ridley spent captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The theatrical techniques are very Brechtian – using a sparse set, audience participation to break the fourth wall, and projections behind the actors on a loop. The projections at times were stark contrasts to the scene, as with a naked woman running on a beach, and at other times were directly related, when a woman is told to ‘cover her feet’ over and over again. It had the effect of feeling obsessive, as though someone were going over that thought over and over again in their mind. The play also involved the actors using a kind of third person narrative to describe their actions, which to me underlined a sense of alienation of the characters from themselves, in both prisoner and guard roles, but also served as a kind of Brechtian element to remind our audience that it’s only a play, and the actors are merely playing their parts. Though, despite it being a production bent on reminding the audience that it is not reality, the acting had a remarkable amount of emotional depth, grabbing my attention for the entire 50 minutes.
I’m not always a fan of Brechtian productions but in this particular case I think that the style fit the content, since we learn at the end that Ridley, after she was let go by the Taliban, returned to Britain and two years later converted to Islam. The audience is treated to a roll of interview and speech clips, where she repeats the same lines over and over, clearly having memorized a script for audiences and media. If the intention was to unsettle, then it was a success: the effect is decidedly creepy, and I left wondering how someone could have changed her belief system so radically.