Fringe review: Hagar

Hagar, 4.5 stars out of 5, Stage 2, Backstage Theatre

Hagar

• 4.5 stars out of 5

• Stage 2, Backstage Theatre

Not every fringe show is going to be a barrel of laughs, or a light-hearted dramedy, or improv.

And that’s a good thing.

Theatre, even Fringe theatre, needs to challenge its audience and push us emotionally.

Hagar does this. In spades. And performer Amena Shehab carries that emotional weight for the whole show.

As a mother planning to flee war-torn Aleppo, Syria, Shehab shows Hagar’s unease in her home as gunfire strafes outside and explosions can be heard.

Abandoned by her husband five months earlier, Hagar tries to fend off loneliness by speaking to her son as he sleeps but also to the sandbags meant to keep stray bullets from entering any further into her home.

She is worn down by smugglers who keep upping the price for a trip to safety, and by a close friend who has ulterior motives when she approaches him for money to get her there.

Shehab pushes with sadness and uncertainty and vulnerability as the audience’s hearts break with her.

The script, by director Aksam Alyousef, weaves Hagar’s present day experiences with her backstory with enough information about the Syrian conflict and the invasion by foreign ISIS fighters so even people who don’t know recent history can keep up.

It is a heartbreaking story, beautifully told.

– Dave Breakenridge