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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Her Green Hell


Genre: Physical Theatre, Storytelling

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Trapped in the Peruvian rainforest, having survived a plane crash and a fall of 10,000 feet, Juliane is utterly alone and hopelessly lost. But she’s the daughter of two Amazon zoologists – she knows what to do. In their ‘astonishing debut’ show (, TheatreGoose reimagine the true survival story of Juliane Koepcke with a captivating combination of puppetry and physical theatre.


Imagine an impossible situation, living through it and somehow finding a way out. This is what happened to Juliane Koepcke many years ago. This true story is written and directed by Emma Howlett and the sole character, Julianne is played by Sophie Keen.

Keen addresses us directly from the compact stage area telling us about being in high school and going on a journey with her parents. This sounds like any other family where they take their high schooler on a holiday before they fly the nest and go to university or move for their first adult job.
Waiting at the airport is fun, then the family is boarding the plane – everyone is full of excitement and anticipation of the travel and spending time somewhere else.

Except that the next thing that happens is what everyone dreads and Julianne finds herself alone in the rain forest in Peru. Her survivalist side awakens and Keen tells us that both parents are zoologists so she is aware of survival skills.

Keen is very physical throughout the piece in a very interesting choreography in and on and around the creative set. A short row of airplane seats swivel and turn and become everything in the story. Tray tables on the back of the seats are cleverly integrated into the imaginative directing and add an additional dimension to this story. Another interesting part of the set is the raised wall around the space, which provides different levels for Keen that Keen uses very effectively. She sits on the airplane seats as if it’s a sofa then darts up on the wall and round it while intently telling the story. The physical movement is not at all random, it’s part of Keen’s character and a stylised way of supporting the story.

The play text is well-crafted by Howlett with beautiful imagery and descriptions of the rainforest and its tantalising atmosphere. Keen has a dynamic and compelling presence when speaking and moving, her performance is sincere and committed to showing and telling and Koepcke’s story yet in her way and that of Howlett.

Multimedia is used sparingly and effectively with the name of certain wild life with succinct details projected on the well behind the set. This information helps transport us into a specific geographical place in Peru, and also complements Koepcke’s search among the rainforest to survive, showing an effective artistic choice. Other information is projected above the level of the seats.

The text offers a condensed play by play of Koepcke’s survivalist skills across several days under challenging and poignant circumstances. It is not rushed, and Howlett’s vivid descriptions are clearly delivered with energy and nuance plus a welcome dash of wry humour by Keen, who is both an accomplished actor and mover. Combining these two skills, Keen makes art in this performance space.

Small vehicles and objects tell some parts of the story in a miniature fashion, using object puppetry techniques, which are integral to the storytelling and add another dimension to the creative stage craft. Moody lighting design, music and sounds are well designed.

In all, this is a play and inspired performance that hits all the marks. Everything works together beautifully and it was very well received by the audience at the performance I attended. Intense, dramatic play with vibrant acting and dynamic storytelling with object puppetry