Your Love Is Fire

Mudar Alhaggi

Collective Encounter / Collective Ma'louba

Summerhall

From 02 August 2017 to 27 August 2017

Rating: *

Review by Keith Mckenna

Few shows can have had the difficulty getting to Edinburgh as Mudar Alhaggi’s play Your Love is Fire which had half its cast denied visas to travel to the UK.

It is remarkable that we can still see a version of the show and that there are good things to see from the fine performances of the actors to an interesting set.

Unfortunately, the text is dull. I agreed with one of the characters who says “I’m sorry... so far the play lacks drama.”

In contrast, the opening section is provocatively uncomfortable. The audience is shown two sets of video. On a TV screen is shown a montage of Syrian political events from the early protests against the Syrian regime to the civil war now raging.

On the back wall is screened footage of a cat repeatedly terrorising mice before tearing them apart. We see clips of a mouse shivering in terror, clips of the bodies of mice torn but still living and in one case a cat eating a live mouse.

You don’t have to be a supporter of animal rights to object to cruelty being constructed for entertainment. Summerhall should ask for this footage to be removed from the show.

The play certainly didn’t need this crude gimmick as a metaphor for the violence of the regime. There can be few people who don’t regard the dictator Assad with a certain horror.

The rest of the play “compensates” for this startling opening by being slight, unimaginative and lacking any dramatic tension.

A soldier (Mohamed Alrashi) visits the flat of his girlfriend Rand (Amal Omran) who wants him to desert the Syrian army and escape to Germany. Her flatmate Hala (Louna Abu Darhamin) also wants to leave but stays to have a few arguments with the soldier.

A fourth character in this layered play is called the author (Mouayad Roumieh). He is in exile eventually in Germany writing and modifying the words the other characters speak.

They are all unhappy and long for something better The Arabic dialogue seems at times poetic but the surtitled translations too often look like clunky puzzles as for instance when one of the characters says, “when you decide to remain conscious you have to surrender to the pain.”

Syria has become a major issue in world politics. We need writers and artists who can help us understand what is happening.

I don’t think anyone will be any the wiser after watching Your Love is Fire and that is a pity.