Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Crossing Jerusalem

Julia Pascal
Tricycle, Kilburn
(2003)

The intention behind Crossing Jerusalem is wholly laudable. The conflict in Israel (or Palestine) has now been going on for either 55 or 38 years in various guises and the current intifada is claiming dozens of lives every month.

It is therefore an ideal subject for a British Theatre, which could, one hopes, present a more balanced view of the issues than might sometimes be apparent in the media.

Unfortunately, this production, which takes a look at the issues from the points of view of two families residing in Jerusalem, one Jewish and one Palestinian, rarely rises above the level of soap opera either in its subject-matter or in its dialogue.

On one side, we have the family of Gideon (Adam Levy), a reserve army officer in his late thirties with a guilty secret. His wife, Yael (Galit Hershkovitz ) is about to celebrate her 30th birthday on the last day before Gideon travels back to the frontline in the occupied territories.

They are to celebrate the occasion with his mother (Suzanne Bertish), Russian immigrant stepfather (Constantine Gregory) and his younger sister Lee (Miranda Pleasence).

On the other side of the divide, we are introduced to be disenfranchised Yusuf and his kid brother, Sharif, who is almost inevitably a stone thrower and destined to share his death with one of the Jewish characters.

The characterisation is such that views of life change from minute to minute and unpleasant family secrets have to be revealed all within the single day that the storyline covers. We find out about death and adultery, promiscuity and love across the racial boundary, all at breathless pace.

Apart from some excellent jokes told by the Russian stepfather in a suitably languid manner, everything else is relayed at full volume with screaming competitions being the common parlance.

While some of Julia Pascal's views about the conflict are interesting, she is more interested in presenting them than in rounding out her characters' lives. This is a pity as her view of Israel and its contemporary problems is reasonably balanced and sympathetic.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher