REVIEW: Shame, Aida Llukaj, Paris Fringe 2020 ★★★★☆

Theatre concerning the toils of womanhood has the power to inspire as well as teach, and Shame succeeds on all fronts. Much of the beauty of the Paris Fringe is in its internationalism, and in particular its capacity to provide a platform for various voices; Aida Llukaj provides a portrait of the struggles faced by women in Albania, mixing dance, poetry, and monologues into the form of a simple, yet extremely effective, one-woman show.

‘Shame’ is performed outside, exposed to the world, and Llukaj is subject to the elements – primarily wind (which has a slight effect on the audio, but is by far the least intrusive or annoying consequences of lockdown). I think the setting for the play is incredibly effective, life just continues in the background, leaving Llukaj isolated – she is far distanced from anyone in the background, separated by a lake. It then made the perfect setting for our stage, illuminating the isolation of women explored throughout the play.

Llukaj has a sublime, powerful presence on her concrete stage. Words are sparse, but she successfully depicts a story of struggle and repression through her body (and the occasional exclamation. Her dancing is superbly elegant and poetic, almost mesmerising, and certainly dominated the piece as the most effective part of the performance. The music, unfortunately, seemed lacklustre in comparison to Llukaj’s art, yet her emotive dance seemed in a world of its own, and frankly would have carried well even without a musical background. There is the occasional moment that I would at first label ‘odd’, as I did not really understand it. One of the subtle powers of this piece, however, is the fact that regardless of what was precisely clear, I could still discern the message thanks to Llukaj’s physical performance – even when parts of it were not in English.

Both empowering women, and depicting the numerous hurdles faced in the everyday life of an Albanian woman, Shame resonates with a clear message of the need for change. Llukaj gives a voice to women living in a society that only wants to tear them down.

Shame is available to watch for free on the Paris Fringe Youtube Channel.