Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jidariyya - Palestinian National Theatre, Lyceum, 14 August

This was a stage adaptation (by Khalifa Natour) of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, who died the week before the show opened here. And therein lay its strengths and its weaknesses. The piece is a meditation on death, land and language by a dying man (written when Darwish had thought - wrongly as it turned out - that he might not have long to live). Its language is highly poetic, but unfortunately its language is also Arabic, and the surtitles tended to the literal (or sometimes the opaque). One was always conscious that one was taking in the language at one remove, though the rhythm and sound of the original was clear. The piece has striking images, some of which have been added in the stage version (death appearing as a group of people in sheep masks) and some of which seem to have grown out of the poem (the woman who walks across the stage, the train of whose dress was covered in dunes and crops). The music was a rather odd, mostly electro-acoustic score, but at the end when the cast simply joined together and sang onstage with a live musician it made its greatest impact.

As a poem and a meditation the piece worked fine, but I remain unsure as to how much value the staging added. Makram J Khoury as the dying (eventually dead) man, and Khalifa Natour as his younger self gave fine performances; there were some good lines; but it never really gelled as a piece of theatre. Perhaps if the audience had been able to understand Arabic without surtitles it would have been more successful.

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