Salty Irina ★★★

Salty Irina is a queer coming-of-age tale, set against a backdrop of far-right resistance

In an unnamed European University town, Anna and Eireni are unnerved by a series of racially-motivated murders. Distrustful of the authorities, they vow to infiltrate a far-right festival to unearth the perpetrators. As they plot their moves, their attraction grows and this love story is played out as unnerving political events emerge around them.  

A two-hander for the most part, told in the round, Hannah van der Westhuysen and Yasemin Özdemir own the space and their committed turns offer the play’s main appeal. There is a chemistry between the two leads and their execution of the dialogue is consistently well-measured. 

All images by Alex Brenner

If the performances are compelling, the narrative is less so. By their very nature, plays with small casts are often exposition-heavy, and such is the case here. Sometimes laboriously so. Salty Irina takes a few narrative detours that aren’t always that important for the story to succeed. Nor really that interesting. And while we know the girls are being naive and foolhardy in their mission, by being slightly ambiguous as to exactly where they are or where they are headed to, no real sense of peril is generated. 

Indeed, the only time tension is genuinely experienced in this Debbie Hannan-directed effort is when a third character, Jana, emerges to question the girls on their presence at the festival. Played with a simmering malevolence by Francesca Knight, Salty Irina might have benefited by lingering longer on this dynamic, rather than it feeling a little like a device to get to the play’s conclusion.

There is much to respect in Salty Irina. But it’s not the satisfying experience it could have been. Is it a thriller? Or a piece of polemic? Or a love story? Its ambition to be all three in the short running time is, ultimately, its well-intentioned misstep.


A case of almost but not quite – ★★★ 3 stars

Salty Irina Tickets

Salty Irina runs at ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall

Book Tickets