Jeff Page’s compact play bravely explores the line that separates anti-Israel criticism from antisemitism.
Geraldine Somerville is Bev, a “lefty”, middle-aged poet whose most recent volume contains a poem inspired by a visit to Hebron where she saw a female Israeli soldier (Chana) searching the bag of a Palestinian woman like, as the poem describes, “a Nazi did to her bubbe.” You see the problem.
The play opens with Bev attempting to respond to criticism that her poem is antisemitic. She’s writing an apology, which she has been urged to compose by her assistant Tamsin (Ulrika Krishnamurti). As Tamsin puts it, the words “Nazi and Jew don’t belong in the same room.”
Page skirts over rather than delves into his chosen thorny theme. You get a sense of the unfairness felt by an artist associated with antisemitism because of one piece of work, much in the way that Caryl Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children has been in the minds of her critics.
But when Bev is asked if she knows that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is antisemitic, her answer, “I do now”, is frustratingly unenlightening. It reveals nothing about how it is possible for an informed, compassionate person to make such a comparison. And although the performances are committed, director Manuel Bau fails to generate the required pace needed in a play that is all about argument.