wednesday 14th may 2008
"in spitting distance"
by taher najib
performed by khalifa natour
offra henig ~ director and musical editor
jackie shemesh ~ lighting
ariella eshed ~ english translation
at the pit, barbican bite 08
barbican press release
Rukab Project: In Spitting Distance
"...the barbican brings rukab project, a theatre collective comprised of director ofira henig, writer taher najib and actor khalifa natour, to london for the first time with "in spitting distance". "in spitting distance" is both a funny and disturbing exposure of problems faced by many travellers since the 9/11 attacks. khalifa natour eloquently tells the
story of a palestinian actor with an israeli passport trying to travel from
paris to tel aviv. an encounter with airport security prompts a thorough reflection of the struggles experienced by those whose
countries are under occupation. performed with fearless black humour and based on a similarly farcical and infuriating true-life experience, the play is a tireless and enigmatic look at ordinary lives touched by present-day conflict. "in spitting distance" is performed in arabic with english surtitles. ofira henig is considered to be one of israel’s leading theatre directors and is currently artistic director of herzliya new ensemble. prior to this she was artistic director of the jerusalem khan theatre. in 2005 taher najib took part in the royal court’s international residency for emerging playwrights where he wrote In "in spitting distance". khalifa natour won the best actor award at the 2006
theatronetto festival in tel aviv for his performance of In "in spitting distance". he also starred in the critically acclaimed film the band’s visit (2006) which played at last year’s london film festival.
this was a great experience marred only by the speed and sometimes ineptness of the surtitles. both the language and the performance were full and rich and we wanted to take them in fully, but often the surtitles came and went in an impossible flash.
but this was still an exceptional show. the humour and recognition and insights offered by this story and the life force and humour and freshness and honesty and simplicity with which it was performed was a model for a solo show i could aspire to emulate.
+ the recurring tai chi resonant fighting/rowing/punting/pulling ritual movement that he opens with
+ the early soliloquy on spitting
+ his being stuck halfway between the theatre (work) and home during an attack: to run home for safety or continued un-terrorised to work (altho with the question: who would go to the theatre on a night like this?)
+ his conversation in (untranslated) french at the charles de gaule check-in desk
+ his laughter in the parisian park at how things have turned out growing to manic then disguising the crazy by pretending a mobile phone conversation
+ his arrival on to the delayed and full plane as the 'cause of the problem'
+ his seeing the 9/ll attack planes footage for the first time on the Tel Aviv security room t.v.
+ his comment that "no this has not been my day in any way...!" in response to the apparently neutral but question: how was your day?
from the programme ...
offra henig's director's notes:
when the second intifada began in israel and palestine, i was living in jerusalem/el kuds trying to survive the bombs, trying desperately to maintain contact with my friends in ramallah and even trying to complete a theatre project.
all my life as an adult, i have lived between two realities and two cultures. on one hand, being a jew born in israel and speaking my native language, and on the other, living with a strong intellectual curiosity about the 'other' culture, searching for justice and feeling a deep sense of shame as a result of the occupation. for the past 20 years, i have dealt with the issue of colonialism, particularly cultural colonialism. but the second intifada moved my life, shook and transformed it, and turned this curiosity, mixed with shame, into a way of life.
in 2003 the playwright taher najib brought me a play in hebrew that was meant to be performed in front of hebrew spectators. i knew taher as an actor because we had worked together a few times, so we read the play all night and in the morning i agreed to direct it. i said yes because it was a personal story, which crossed all political borders. the play touched upon me as an artist, an israeli citizen and a human being. i understood that i could create a space and stage for taher and khalifa to tell their stories. while it is not my personal story, they are my friends and i know their situation very well. i live alongside it every day. so this is my artistic and moral role - and it's beyond political demonstration.
the rukab project has become a small island of sanity in an insane reality. it's not a way to prove the possibilities of co-existence; it's a way to survive. since the premiere of "in spitting distance" in 2006 we have translated the play into arabic and continue to perform it to anyone who would like to listen to a story that is told differently, a story that you will never read in the newspapers.