NEWLY RE­VIEWED Bias hurts adrama

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

WELCOMETORAMALLAH

Ar­cola The­atre, Lon­don E8

RATHERLIKEthei­de­al­is­ticdo-gooder in her lat­est of­fer­ing, Sonja Lin­den has sup­ported sev­eral worth­while causes, among them vic­tims of the Rwan­dan geno­cide, about whom she wrote a fine play. But some­times there is a dra­matic price to be paid when a play­wright’s pol­i­tics is so con­spic­u­ously present on stage.

Lin­den has teamed up with co-writer Adah Kay who, like the play’s heroine Mara (Shuna Snow), is the daugh­ter of a “staunchly Zion­ist” fam­ily who shifted al­le­giances and lived and worked with Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank city of Ra­mal­lah.

The play is set in Mara’s apart­ment in the city’s in­ter­na­tional zone. To reach it, vis­it­ing older sis­ter Natasha (Lolly Susi) has for the first time braved Is­raeli check­points. She wants to per­suade Mara to re­turn to the kib­butz of their child­hood to bury the ashes of their fa­ther.

We meet the rea­son for Mara’s re­sis­tance with the ar­rival of her two other guests — her Pales­tinian neigh­bour Daoud (Christo­pher Si­mon) and his un­cle Salim (John Mo­raitis), who re­mem­bers be­ing ex­pelled from his fam­ily’s vil­lage be­fore it was turned into Mara and Natasha’s kib­butz. This set-up may sound over-tidy, but Sue Lefton’s as­sured pro­duc­tion does not feel con­trived.

Lin­den and Kay seem to be mo­ti­vated by a sense of in­jus­tice and Jewish guilt for the Pales­tinian vic­tims of Is­rael’s es­tab­lish­ment. Which is as good a rea­son as any to write a play. But the au­thors have not fully trusted their sub­ject to cre­ate its own drama.

While for the most part their Pales­tinian char­ac­ters are por­trayed as noble vic­tims, the pro-Is­rael Natasha comes across as an un­for­giv­ably in­sen­si­tive snob­whomakesrude­com­mentsabout the size of Pales­tinian fam­i­lies.

It is a shame, be­cause in a play that has se­ri­ous things to say about the legacy of Is­rael’s found­ing, it is not so much Natasha’s prej­u­dices that are ob­vi­ous, but the au­thors’. It is the trap into which many po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated drama­tists fall. (Tel: 020 7503 1646)

THEWAL­WORTHFARCE

Cottes­loe, Na­tional The­atre, Lon­don SE1

THE IR­ISH fa­ther in Enda Walsh’s funny and dis­turb­ing com­edy tries to re­write fam­ily his­tory by forc­ing his two sons to per­form re­peat­edly a play ver­sion of his life that hides the bloody crime he com­mit­ted back in Cork.

It takes a good while for th­ese facts to emerge. For the most part, Mikel Murfi’s breath­less pro­duc­tion en­ter­tains with a seem­ingly end­less rit­ual that sees Dinny (De­nis Con­way) and his emo­tion­ally stunted sons Sean (Tadhg Mur­phy) and Blake (Gar­rett Lom­bard) ca­vort around their coun­cil flat on South Lon­don’s Wal­worth Road, per­form­ing their dad’s barmy script. Con­tact with the out­side world is for­bid­den, other than the daily shop­ping trip to Tesco where Sean, who yearns to es­cape his fa­ther’s night­mare, has met a sweet check­out girl (Mercy Oje­lade). When she turns up at the flat, the play turns from an ec­cen­tric farce into a chill­ing ab­duc­tion drama. The­atre has al­ways served as a form of es­capism. Walsh de­picts it as a form of im­pris­on­ment. (Tel: 020 7 452 3000)

Arab meets Is­raeli in Wel­come to Ra­mal­lah, but the ob­vi­ous anti-Is­rael stance di­lutes the pro-Pales­tinian mes­sage

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