● My week in Israel begins at sunset on Saturday. As the traffic gradient darkens to the week-time rush of cars, motorbikes and Breslevmobiles, I sit down to my weekly Shabbat blog Trial By Fire – detailing the ins and outs of life as ola chadasha and Artistic Director of a British-Israeli cultural platform.
This new work by international company Theatre Témoin takes as its source material the testimony, compiled by director Ailin Conant, of fighters from countries of conflict including Israel, Rwanda and Lebanon.
Howard Brenton’s play is based on the artist Ai Weiwei’s account of 81 days of detention by the Chinese authorities, as described in journalist Barnaby Martin’s book The Hanging Man. Director James Macdonald presents it as a piece of modern art. The theatre’s stage has been stripped back to whitewashed walls.
The inaugural play in the National’s temporary, very big and very red new venue is high on concept, but on contrivance also. The big idea underlying Tanya Ronder’s offering is that of the kitchen table not only serving as the surface on which we eat, work and occasionally have sex, but as witness to a family’s trials and tribulations.
Unlike his contemporary Chekhov, it’s not only Russia’s pre-revolutionary privileged class who populate Maxim Gorky’s plays but a hostile and starving proletariat. This work, which the political dramatist and activist wrote from his St Petersburg prison during Russia’s aborted 1905 revolution, gives a sense of them circling the home of scientist Protasov.
The play that kept me out at night for four months has closed and the only culture I've seen is yeast in the bread machine. I will spend the week catching up on theatre… but first, I'm at the London Jewish Cultural Centre to take part in a discussion on Jewish Mum of the Year. If a heated debate is expected, then the panel will go solar.