Not a good time to show my face here, says comic

By John Nathan, March 12, 2009
Iris Bahr in a guise from her one woman show, Dai, at London’s Shaw Theatre

Iris Bahr in a guise from her one woman show, Dai, at London’s Shaw Theatre

The Israeli comedy actress and writer Iris Bahr has spoken of her fears over bringing her one-woman show Dai to London at a time when antisemitism and anti-Israeli feeling is running high.

“It’s a crappy time to be a Jew going to England,” she wrote in a blog before she left her Los Angeles home. “If you’re an Israeli Jew like me, you’re really screwed.”

Bahr plays three Israeli characters in a Tel Aviv café moments before a suicide bomber enters. It opened this week at the Shaw Theatre.

She said she feared that the anti-Israel mood that followed the Gaza conflict might lead people to boycott the show.

Dai (which means enough in Hebrew) opens in London in the wake of Caryl Churchill’s controversial Royal Court play Seven Jewish Children, written as a response to Israel’s attack on Gaza and which has been accused of antisemitism.

Similar accusations were made about an Auschwitz-style pile of shoes in the play Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea, another rapid-response production inspired by Gaza, which finishes its run at north London’s Theatro Technis Theatre tomorrow (Saturday).

Asked if the climate had affected ticket sales for her show, which won awards in New York, Bahr said: “I’m sure it has, which is unfortunate. In the US people were more interested in the subject matter.

“In my show, I try to examine the Israeli psyche — the average Israeli in the coffee shop. What is he thinking? Why is he tormented? What are his internal conflicts?

“In the US, when I do the show, people try to understand the psychology of it all. I did it in Washington DC where there were a lot of Palestinian activists. We discussed the show and they said what they liked, and what they would have liked to see in the work. It’s all been very productive.”

Bahr, whose TV appearances include an Orthodox Jew in Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, is particularly critical of Churchill’s play.

“You criticise a government’s actions. Writing a play about Jews being monstrous, or inhumane — any time you generalise an entire nation because of a government policy — it’s absurd.”

There have been far fewer suicide bombings in Israel since Bahr first performed Dai in New York. Does she worry that this has dated her play?

“I would hope that it is dated in the sense that I hope suicide bombings in Israel become obsolete. But I think after Gaza, the desire for the bombings is greater. When more extremism is born the danger is greater.”

Last updated: 3:01pm, February 18 2011