Driver/Painter

Hillel Mitelpunkt
New End Theatre
(2006)

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Paola Dionisotti's and Richard Hawley's superb performances in a drama which resonates with echoes of late Ibsen, Chekhov, and Tennessee Williams, all of it laced with a Mediterranean flavour of some optimism, provide enjoyable fare.

The geographical location could be anywhere. The drama unfolds in a dilapidated house with a rich past in the middle of what was once an orchard.

Mira (Dionisotti), a flamboyant painter in her early sixties, returns after 40 years of absence to what was once her wealthy family home. Her journey back is not sentimental. Rather, she is coming home to paint and die. She knows she is suffering from a degenerative disease which will shortly leave her blind and physically immobile. Her inevitable downfall is masked by words about the wealth she has in Panama, one of her former homes where she lived with a millionaire husband.

On returning to what is now a desolate and decrepit house she encounters Aaron (Hawley), a man in his forties. He is a lorry driver who drove into a wall and spent six months in a coma. The accident liberated him from his past and memories. A chance meeting between Aaron and Alex, Mira's brother, provides him a home and a partner/friend. Alex's premature death some four months earlier leaves Aaron with a house, memories of friendship and dreams of a joint enterprise to grow silk worms, which never reached fruition.

The two protagonists, Mira and Aaron, represent two individuals from polarised backgrounds forced into a confined space. Mira's sarcastic and condescending manners provide an effective basis for what promises to be a potentially miserable co-existence.

Despite the deceptive initial impression one gets of Aaron as an uncouth former lorry driver whose knowledge is gained almost exclusively from the radio, he proves to be smart and talented. He challenges Mira's false assertions as to her social standing and economic security; however, unlike Stanley in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire Aaron's challenge is constructive and Mira does not deceive herself, but only others.

She tries hard to perpetuate the myth of her wealth and her social standing. She mocks and ridicules Aaron to undermine his finding out the true facts about her, but Aaron proves compassionate, savvy, and talented. Once she capitulates and owns up to her real, impoverished state of affairs, we witness the turning point in their relationship.

The social chasm gradually disappears and is replaced by a bridge of hope and of mutual compassion and respect.

Casting by Lee Gilat, a talented young director, is brilliant. Hawley seems to embody Aaron. He is strong and masculine with the requisite looks, rugged charm and charisma.

Dionisotti is physically petite and could have fooled us into thinking she is vulnerable. Instead, she fills the stage with tremendous inner energy and vitality. Mira's fierce passion for art and masked vulnerability are exquisitely and humorously performed by her.

Uri Ofir's design perfectly captures the atmosphere generated by the dialogue despite the confined space at the New End.

Mittelpunkt is known for plays dominated by Israeli politics. However, the English translation of this play is devoid of these elements, whether by design or otherwise.

Running until 5th November

Reviewer: Rivka Jacobson