Review: Plonter

By John Nathan, January 29, 2009
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Barbican Pit, London EC2

Plonter means “tangle” in Hebrew. And although Israel’s Cameri Theatre offers few clues as to how to disentangle Palestinians and Israelis from their seemingly endless conflict, and even though Yael Ronen’s multi-media production leaves you desolate, the very existence of a theatre company populated by Arabs (though Israeli) and Israelis (though Jewish), is a sign that maybe, just maybe, there is reason for hope.

That Plonter is performed in Hebrew and Arabic, with Jews and Arabs playing both sides of the conflict is also highly symbolic. Though it doesn’t help that the English subtitles draw the eye away from the action and are seriously out of synch.

The most conspicuous target of Ronen’s satire, which was developed with her cast, is the attitude of Israelis towards Arabs, depicted here as varying between ignorance and bigotry.

The sketch-like opening scene is set in the home of the Israeli Peleg family. In a gesture of goodwill they host a dinner for an Arab-Israeli couple, who, along with the humus, have to swallow Mrs Peleg’s condescending liberalism.

Raida Adon, Irit Kaplan and Yaniv Biton in Plonter, staged by the Arab-Jewish Cameri Theatre company

Raida Adon, Irit Kaplan and Yaniv Biton in Plonter, staged by the Arab-Jewish Cameri Theatre company

The mood shifts to dark with the emergence of the central narrative and the deeply disturbing events that follow the killing of a Palestinian boy by Mrs Peleg’s guilt-ridden soldier son — the whitewash debriefing; the callous use of the mother’s grief by Palestinian militants for propaganda; the shooting of a Jewish settler’s child; and a scene in which Palestinian children play with an explosive vest as they plan a suicide attack.

That all this is delivered with a lightness of touch is no mean achievement.

The tension felt by passengers on Israeli buses targeted by bombers and the humiliation suffered by Palestinians whose movement has been restricted by the security wall are handled with humour.

But you laugh darkly, and the relief, like the hope, is short lived.

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    Last updated: 11:57am, January 29 2009