Tuesday, 26 August 2008

'eating ice cream on gaza beach' by shelley silas @ soho theatre

'eating ice cream on gaza beach'
written by shelley silas
directed by anna niland
designed by anthony lamble
lighting by david kidd
projection designer john lloyd fillington

original music by reem kelani

assistant director prasanna puwanarah

Adrian ~ Christopher Sheridan
Rami ~ Oliver Hawes
Maryam ~ Bathsheba Piepe
Muz ~ Ciaran Owens
Ameena ~ Parissa Barghchi
Danny ~ David Mumeni
Ruthie ~ Laura Kiman
Shai ~ Mark Weinman
Officers ~ Obi Iwumene, Zakarya Kaye, Andrew Kaye
Ensemble ~ Tanya Cubric, Elizabeth Henstridge, Daniella Isaacs, Tyan Jones

national youth theatre
Season 2008 - Worlds Apart: global stories and home truths
soho theatre

It's sixty years since Israeli independence. Good news for some, not good for others. While one side celebrates, the other mourns.
It's a scorching day on Gaza beach. Again.
From the Babylonians to the Greeks, the Romans, the French, the British, and now the Americans, this narrow stretch of land has been picked over by divide-and-ruling invaders throughout the whole of recorded history. It is the people on the ground who pay the price. It is the people on the sand this play is about.

We come into the theatre to find the entire cast on stage - backs mostly turned to us - still ... As the lights dim one of the actors makes the Muslim call to prayer...
An ice cream van that's seen better days turns repeatedly to evoke a checkpoint, a couple of different bedrooms, and an army office as well as Gaza beach itself.
A screen above will show fairly literal images linked with the action including various shots of Gaza beach, snapshots of Danny and his girlfriend as a happy couple, an orange sunset that could equally be pollution, and a couple of banksy images - the starbucks tank and the baby flying with balloons to illustrate Maryam's final acceptance of her son's death.
Throughout a chorus of veiled women provide a vocal, percussive and silently mimed back-story to the action of the story we get to watch.

The triumph of this play - writing and performances - is in giving us recognisable people we get time and space to get to know and care about:
Adrian "as in Mole?" the brit on a gap year, wondering what it was like for his grandfather who once fought here and determined to not take sides;
Rami the christian ice cream seller who tries so hard to stay away from protests as his way of standing up for what he believes in and because he can't believe they can achieve anything;
Muz (with distracting irish accent) full of righteous fury and pent up fervour for action;
Danny the reluctant israeli soldier forced to finish his term of military service at a checkpoint.
And as a result of finding and being with these people we are drawn in to want to know and -understand more about what is happening here - the political situation for once does not overwhelm the human stories. But at the same time we are given the complex complicated mess of things - there is no hint or pretence here of anything like an answer - just people being people in their different ways and in response to the situations they find themselves in - and not all of these are made by the war.

Lines that resound and remain for me:
"this is it for the rest of my life this is all I've got" Muz
"which would you choose if you had to - england or israel - your physical or your spiritual home?"
"i’m not on either side i’m on both sides i’m on the third side" Adrian
"Not acting is a choice - it's not doing nothing." Rami

This is a brave play honestly performed. I liked a lot that none of the characters are as straight forward and predictable as we might expect them to be: Danny the soldier of conscience nevertheless follows his orders; Rami is pulled away from his determined decision not to act and his own sense of responsibility by his sense of responsibility in the heat of the moment; Adrian forgets his neutrality and rushes headlong into battle; Maryam wishes for peace also finds herself taking action and joining the protest. People behaving like people - except in this place people being people can get killed.
And the brilliance of Shelley's play is she has made a true modern day tragedy: its outcome is both unacceptable and unavoidable - we hate what happens while believing utterly in its happening because none of these characters can feasibly do other than they do.

I was also hugely impressed with the intelligent feisty-ness of the young cast and the creators articulating their process making and performing of this play during the post show discussion - neither belligerent or aggressive unlike a couple of the questioners nearly were – nor in any way submissive about their choices and what they are doing.

'Telling a story of Gaza without preaching it' - 'Eating Ice-cream on Gaza Beach' brings a range of Palestinian and Israeli opinion to London audiences. By Olivia Snaije Special to The Daily Star Wednesday, August 27, 2008

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