Thursday, 22 September 2022

REVIEW: For a Palestinian at the Camden People’s Theatre

When I stood for the ovation of For a Palestinian I was in floods of tears. Which is strange, because I have not stopped smiling since. I guess it’s true what they say: it’s the things you love that bring you pain.

For a Palestinian tells the story of Wa’el Zuaiter, a Palestinian translator who moved to Italy, fell in love and brought the Palestinian struggle to the Italian people. We meet his lover Janet, his 3 eccentric flatmates, and his elderly landlady. We also meet the play’s writer himself, Bilal, and his father, mother, siblings, and immediate and extended family. Oh, and it’s a one-man show. Forgive me for not mentioning that sooner, but if I’m honest I’d forgotten that fact by about halfway through. So effortless is the charming Bilal Hasna’s transition between characters that I had to make a conscious effort to remember that the whole time it was just one man talking to himself. His performance immediately grips you and will not let you go.

For a show that jumps quickly from decade to decade and continent to continent, it was exceedingly nuanced. Even seemingly strange interjections eventually slotted into place like jigsaw pieces to build a totally comprehensive emotional, educational, political (and all of the other -als) call to action.

Jida Akil’s set design is simple but effective, transporting the audience to the orange grove’s of Jaffa whilst leaving Hasna space for his whirlwind performance. Holly Khan and Ros Chase’s sound and lighting design (respectively) were equally in tune with Hasna and Aaron Kilercioglu’s (director and writer) story. The dramatic shifts in emotion were perfectly choreographed across departments so that not only did the characters feel them, but the theatre’s very atmosphere did too. The audience could never rest in their joy or grief but had to switch sympathies almost as many times as Hasna switched characters. This was never tiring, however. It was just a testament to the total control the team had over this story and how well they translated their passion for it to the stage.

If I were to be cynical, I would say that the show’s subtext is slightly overstated by the time it’s over. Some of the incredible work put in to convey the indescribable experience of the Palestinian diaspora is undone by the lengthy, emphatic final monologue. However, the monologue in question is personal and informative nonetheless and so it certainly holds its place in a show that has chosen to firmly locate itself in its time and place.

Ultimately, I was blown away by For a Palestinian. It is a truly important show. It plays at the Camden People’s Theatre until October 1st before transferring to the Bristol Old Vic. Promise me you will go and see it.

Review by Anna Smith

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Unassigned | Price of Ticket: £12
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