Four For Jericho

A political diatribe dressed up in slapstick clothes

By Lee Levitt, August 15, 2011

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has many potential ingredients for a dollop of black comedy, with generations of mutual hatred, prejudice and violence just for starters. But dressing up a political diatribe in slapstick clothes, with cardboard-cutout characters, as Richard Fredman's frantic, show-offy play does, is calculated to offend all those in search of more than a sliver of comic insight into the seemingly intractable problem.

In a piece which the programme notes tell us is "informed by his Jewish background and his experiences in both Israel and on the West Bank", the Cambridge-based playwright unleashes in the holy land and the West Bank Paul Brendan's philosemitic, prattishly-attired Christian Sunday school teacher Michael Crossley.

Michael is an idealist, who sets off to film the Jews, "an incredible people". But wait a second: maybe they're not, after all. For up pops Chandrika Chevli's Izzy, a member of the Palestinian-led International Solidarity Movement, which monitors Israeli settlements, and a Jew to boot, who tells him that what matters is "justice for the indigenous population. It's about standing up against oppression".

A couple of bickering taxi-drivers later, and the ingenue film-maker is off on a collision course with every archetype under the Israeli-Palestinian sun. These include Emma Beattie's sour-faced, pot-bellied Rachel Finkelman, a gun-toting

New York Jewish settler and mother-of-twelve, played as it on steroids; Chevli's Dr Reem Qaddumi, a Palestinian activist and independent film-maker; and Fouad al-Rahmi, a downtrodden Palestinian goatherd, played (with a nice twist) by Jewish-Israeli Londoner Josh Becker. So, a fairly accurate representation of Israeli/Palestinian society.

As the frenzied action builds, Fouad is made to play a game in which he has to call himself "a Muslim pig" and to say his mother is "a whore of Mohammed", and his home is demolished as a punishment for his activist son taking part in a demonstration against the "security wall".

Rachel, meanwhile, kills a policeman when her illegal home is threatened by a bulldozer, and attempts to frame Fouad.

Careering out of control, the action ends in a ludicrously hammed-up car chase towards Jericho, with the journey broken up by dug-up roads, concerte roadblocks, security checkpoints, and the security wall slicing Arab villages in half. Why? "So that Palestine can never be," weeps Fouad.

Pleasance Two, until Aug 29, not Aug 16

Last updated: 10:39am, August 22 2011