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Four For Jericho

A political diatribe dressed up in slapstick clothes

    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.

The Jewish Chronicle

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