Edinburgh Review: House of Hundred – C Aquila

First published in The Times, Friday August 9 2019

Three Stars

Chronicling 100 years of Turkish history in a single hour is a tall order. This multimedia piece created by Yesim Ozsoy packs enough material into its running time to fuel a dozen Fringe shows. If the premise is ambitious, the storytelling is unconventional. Ozsoy’s history lesson is delivered through the prism of an Istanbul mansion, with the writer-performer incarnating everything from furniture to ornaments to create a layered, multifaceted narrative.

The tone of these accounts ranges from the whimsical to the melancholic. We hear from a curtain that delights in eavesdropping on family life and a household container, bloated with onions, that is later repurposed as an ornate lamp. One story is told from the perspective of a rug, which ponders whether the woman who comes to clean it has supernatural powers.

OZSY hous 2019.08.07 HOHPhotoMuratDurum3

Pic: Murat Durum

Each of these stories touches upon aspects of the city’s turbulent 20th century history, from the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-22, through two world wars and disputes in Cyprus. A busy staging intensifies the narrative fragmentation. Ghostly black-and-white footage accompanies the live performance, with shadow puppetry used to depict the construction and demolition of the house. An unassuming live soundtrack is provided by Kivanç Sarikus, using a range of instruments and effects.

OZSY hous 2019.08.07 HOHPhotoMuratDurum7


Marshalling all of these elements into a coherent whole was never going to be easy, and, while individual episodes intrigue, the writing is too variable (at its best, poetic, at times verging on doggerel) to compellingly dramatise such an eventful history. Özsoy’s performance ebbs and flows in its energy and clarity. The project, inspired by the performer’s family background, is a labour of love, but it needs a more disciplined staging to do complete justice to its subject.


Box office: 0131 581 5555, to August 17

Author: Allan Radcliffe

I am a writer, freelance journalist, subeditor and theatre critic, based in South Queensferry. My short fiction has been published in anthologies such as Out There, Elsewhere, The Best Gay Short Stories, ImagiNation, Markings, Gutter, New Writing Scotland and Celtic View. I have won the Scottish Book Trust's New Writer's Award and several of my stories have been adapted for broadcast on BBC Radio 4. As a journalist I write regularly for The Times, the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald, Sunday Times, Metro, Big Issue and I was formerly assistant editor of The List magazine.

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