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Red Fortress

Published 23 October 2008

With the world around them changing faster than they can keep up with, three children are caught in a holy war that forces them to embark on a dangerous journey and make the toughest decisions of their lives. As they experience betrayal, love and adventure for the first time, they realise that nothing is quite as it once seemed. Charlotte Marshall was in the first night audience of Red Fortress at the Unicorn theatre.

Set in 1491 in what we now know as Southern Spain, Rabia (Gehane Strehler) and Luis (Jack Blumenau) are friends who spend their days singing and dancing, bickering and playing, in equal measures. Rabia’s mother is a bookseller and Luis’s father makes medicines in the city. When Rabia buys some magic books from a distressed stranger fleeing the country, the children begin to piece together the truth that life in Granada is not as peaceful as they believed.

When a family of peasants arrive in the town square, the adults’ lives are disrupted in a way that they can no longer hide from the children, causing all of their beliefs to be shaken. Luis, stubborn and with an innate sense of goodness, embarks on an epic journey with the youngest son Iago (John Cockerill), both determined to help save their homeland, even against the wishes of their parents. Rabia, never to be outdone, dresses up in boys’ clothes and sets off on a journey of her own, determined to sell the magic books and make her mother proud.

As their journey takes them from Holy Faith Fort, where the Christian King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, reside, to the battlefields outside the walls of their city, the children find themselves in grave danger.

In the midst of a holy battle, Rabia, a Muslim, Luis, a Jew, and Iago, a Christian, are pulled apart by their ignorance of each other’s religions and the divisions the adults around them have created. But when they begin to find common bonds between one other and their Gods, the fate of the city is placed in their hands.

With richly coloured, flamboyant costumes and heavy rugs, and palace walls and vast deserts making up the ever-changing set, The Red Fortress transforms the Unicorn theatre into the hot, dusty Spanish city of Granada. On stage, musicians help complete the atmosphere playing haunting songs and a magical, exotic soundtrack to accompany the adventure.

Suitable for children over the age of 10, Red Fortress tells an epic story of religious intolerance and war, that is as relevant today as it was in the times of Rabia, Luis and Iago. As well as broadening families’ historical knowledge, Red Fortress also entertains; although the story is sometimes quite frightening and deals with sensitive issues, the play is lifted with frequent comical interludes and even the odd bit of pantomime-style audience participation.

Red Fortress plays at the Unicorn theatre until 8 November.

CM

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