first night

The Gaza Monologues

Maddy Ratcliffe reviews HCTC's moving and compelling production.

The problem of how to make an audience relate to the cause of victims in a far-away land, with foreign names and alien experiences, is one that faces every aid organisation. How to make us care? It is no different in this play, and on the whole, they succeeded. This was a fine, moving and, at times, powerful production dramatising the plight of children living in the Gaza strip.

 

It is easy to be cynical when going into these things, but despite an initial inward groan (the first line of the play is “What do you think?”) the production avoided such clichéd ways of challenging its audience, and instead let the children’s stories do the work to convince us instead.

 

At times the play felt a little amateurish, and it was hard to reach the stories beneath the layers of actor, playing child, reading a monologue. It is a shame that sometimes the actual tales were masked in this manner, but, the production eased into itself and became more confident and convincing as it went on. And, this very transformation, the immersion of the characters on stage, from detached school children like us, into the children of Gaza was extremely compelling.

 

One of the main purposes of this play was to draw attention to the similarities between ‘us and them’: children younger than us living with unimaginable fear and loss, but just like us, not some distant, faceless unknowns. Their references to school, their love of the theatre, and their dream professions (engineer, actress, journalist), made us relate, and realise that, but for a difference of geography we would be the ones too afraid to fall asleep at night. The pared down set, a single wall which went from an English classroom to a bombed-out home in Gaza, and excellent use of the ensemble cast, who worked together beautifully, were vital in translating this message. The interconnectivity of the cast members stressed that we too are involved, with our equivalents in Gaza, and how lucky we are that we are not them, and that our dreams had not been eroded like theirs, so that “instead of hoping to live a good life, we hope for a good death”.

 

The most powerful scenes were the ones that emphatically reminded us that these weren’t just news reports, but real events, witnessed by children. Such as in the sixth monologue when a young boy is overwhelmed by an impenetrable wall of news reporters, learning, live on TV, of his uncle’s death for the first time, or a young girls’ realisation that the war had really started when she saw her stylish relative running through the streets in pyjamas, and wondering why, in their destroyed house, full of smoke, her father decided to light a cigarette and add to it. It was an emotional show, with a very powerful message; leaving the politics out of it, it does us good to be reminded of what horrors are unfolding only a plane-ride away.

19 June 2011

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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