Review: Agave vs the Lion (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

Flying Solo! Presents have produced this short piece of drama taking inspiration from Greek drama (The Bakkhai (Euripides, 405 BC) and the rise of white Christian Nationalism in the United States.

We are deep in the throes of Trumpism, and Agave i(Ali James) s being plaugued by an aggressive male voice (Jay Minton) from her laptop, spewing the words of rage and hate. She is an artist, a visionary, focusing in her own form of religious expression and ecstasy.

Sarah Crockarell’s adaption runs just over twenty minutes, but carries a potent force. The language remains archaic, but the setting is deeply contemporary, stoking the fires if those who fear something which is “different”. in the original text, Agave is driven to murder her son under the impression he is a mountain lion, and therefore an immediate danger.

James’s version of Agave is always on the edge of breaking, pushed on from the speeches and sermons which speak directly to her. The play alone seems impenetrable as we never really know where this character has come from and why she acts as she does – as the scenes progress she seems to abuse and decorate herself rather than her canvas, and her eyes turn from flickers of fear to steely resolution.

Promotional image for Agave vs the Lion

Agave vs the Lion is a type of verbatim drama, taking its disembodied voice from various Christian speakers claiming that taking arms and moving into violence is to follow the Word of God. Whether this is the benign God which is widely worshipped, or a social media celebrity like the 45th President is never clear.

What we are watching here is disturbing and difficult, not just the language but the absence of any context in which to engage with Agate as she goes from uneasy listener to roaring combatant.

Fringe rating: ***

You can stream Agave and the Lion throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on the Online@theSpace platform until the end of August: book your ticket here.

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