Review: Time Out, 23rd February

February 27, 2009

·  Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea

·  Until Sat Mar 14

·  Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Rd, London, NW1 1TT

·  Rating:

 

·  By Andrew Haydon

Posted: Mon Feb 23

·  Hard on the heels of Caryl Churchill’s ‘Seven Jewish Children’ comes Justin Butcher and Ahmed Masoud’s rapid response to the recent conflict in Gaza. The play adopts precisely the opposite strategy to Churchill’s piece, choosing to focus almost entirely on Palestinian characters and studiously avoiding any reference to either Judaism or Islam. On the face of it the drama is about the ‘human tragedy’ but, inevitably, it takes a position. As such, its pretence of objectivity becomes deeply insidious.

Theatrically, the piece is a rather fun mix of pretty much everything. It’s got Palestinian music and dancing; monologues and drama; stuff that looks like verbatim theatre and stuff that’s clearly speculative; video footage; comedy and tragedy and physical theatre. These elements are loosely framed by the story of a young Palestinian who has lost his will to live: he is led, Dante-like, around scenes showing some of the various ways one can die in Gaza, which, it is noted, can be translated as ‘hell’.

The staging is striking. At one end of the large church hall-like space is what looks like rubble but turns out to be thousands of shoes. Shoes become a recurring metaphor for death. While effective, it is also troublingly reminiscent of the room in the Auschwitz memorial museum. While carefully including a Jewish conscientious objector as one of the numerous talking heads, and a news clip in which the claim that Hamas use human shields is made, the piece remains unavoidably partial. By showing the young man finallylosing his life by joining ‘the resistance’, Butcher and Masoud imply that Palestinian Muslims have been forced into a corner and that Hamas is purely a resistance movement, not an aggressor. The piece is moving on loss of life in Gaza. But I felt that it was also propaganda and specious justification for Islamist terrorism.

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