Theatre Review: The Shock of the News ; THEATRE ALIVE FROM PALESTINE Young Vic London

By Koenig, Rhoda | The Independent (London, England), July 25, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Theatre Review: The Shock of the News ; THEATRE ALIVE FROM PALESTINE Young Vic London


Koenig, Rhoda, The Independent (London, England)


As a piece of theatre, Alive from Palestine is exemplary. Four huge piles of newspapers shiver and fall away to disclose five men and a woman. Their lives, like the papers, are fragile, at the mercy of shifts in the wind, and the day's news is the news of yesterday and the day before.

No author is credited for the stories told and performed by the actors of the Al-Kasaba Theatre of Ramallah (in Arabic, with surtitles on three screens), stories which for the most part have the zest and pain of real experience. A few, understandably in the circumstances, are bathetic: a father sorting through his dead boy's possessions says, "I'll give these to your younger brother - I forgot, son, you're my only child." But the rest are sharp vignettes, humorous and touching, of daily life in Palestine. A couple dream of having their own mud-floored hut in a refugee camp. A man takes a call from his son in London, assuring him while dodging bullets that the shots he hears are being fired in celebration. A corpse is annoyed by funeral guests gawping into his open grave. Everyone demonstrates, facetiously or in anguish, that normal life is impossible. "Death has become normal," says the woman. "Fear and despair are normal." Even a valise, which has been dragged round the world by three generations, laments, "Why couldn't I be a normal suitcase?"

The actors in Amir Nizar Zuabi's heartfelt production are all highly skilled, yet refreshingly unactorish. Their stories deftly vary in length and tone, and combined with brief interludes of simple but effective movement - studying newspapers, angrily throwing them about, dropping to the ground in fear of attack.

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