National Theatre | ★★★✩✩
I was born in Israel. My mother fled persecution from Yemen,” says Amit Lahav, the head of physical theatre company Gheko. He is joined in this declaration by fellow cast members from such territories as Hong Kong, Columbia, Mexico and China each of whom introduce themselves as the embodiment of immigrant experience.
In this dance-based show created by Lahav the ensemble move with muscular precision to Dave Price’s haunting and percussive soundtrack. They play persecuted people of different identities and cultures, yet each have the common experience of being mercilessly treated by those in a position to help, driven from pillar to post in search of a better life.
Expressing such stories primarily through movement and sound is a challenge here that does not fully pay off. Granted, the dancing is exquisite. It relates with stunning synchronicity the experience of settling in a new home, working hard, earning a living only to be expelled or killed by the hate that bubbles up like lava from the land in which immigrants attempt to lead decent lives. Leave, live, repeat.
Jews in the piece are haunted by memories of forbears from the old country portrayed with hollow-eyed life-sized puppets. Yet conveying this cycle of woe with repetition has diminishing returns. Narratively the piece does not move very far from where it begins and the result is a restlessness and drift that is never a good thing in theatre.
Still, Lahav’s declaration might just give those who have bought into the narrative that Israel is a white colonialist pariah state (more obviously undermined by Gheko’s 2008 show The Arab and Jew) some pause for thought.