Pchuta (Denuded)

Written and performed by Miki Peleg-Rothstein
Habima Theatre, Tel Aviv

Production photo

In a compelling solo performance, Miki Peleg-Rothstein slices through years of abused childhood.

Mira is a seven year old girl. She and her sister live with a deaf mother who is devoted to them.

After their biological father divorces himself from the family, Mira's mother advertises for a replacement partner. A white-haired carpenter with gnarled hands responds to the advert, promising Mira her own room and a collection of dolls. The family moves to his flat where the sofa in the lounge becomes her bedroom. In this flat all celebrations are rapidly "buried deep beneath" a new reality.

The stepfather wastes little time in making sexual advances on seven year-old Mira. In the new milieu Mira functions like a drowning child desperate to swim. She is repeatedly raped by her stepfather over a period of four years with no one noticing her plight and distress.

Her mother's love grows dull in the shadow of her stepfather. The mother she adores enslaves herself, partly out of fear, to that man. The loss of her mother's undivided attention leaves Mira with nothing but her inner resourcefulness to survive.

Peleg-Rothstein's Mira is an eloquent vivacious young child whose childhood is physically and emotionally dislocated. Every night when the old man abuses her she seals her lips. She knows that screaming is futile given that her mother is profoundly deaf. The additional fear that her tormentor may hurt her mother too secures her silence.

In her desperate attempts to find ways to repel the old man she shaves off her eyebrows and hair, trying to be a boy. She starves herself to the point of being mocked by other children who nickname her 'dead skeleton' and is sent to hospital suffering from malnutrition.

The system fails Mira. Her teachers and school Headmistress punish her for being difficult. Her deaf mother, incapable of grasping the true nature of the man she has married, turns a blind eye to her little girl's plight.

Norman Issa's staging of the play is particularly powerful. On a dark, minimalist set, a funnel hangs from the ceiling. Soft white sand runs through the funnel down to the stage, like in an hourglass. The first time her body is violated, the filtered sand showers Mira's hair and face covering both with white sand. There is a spectacular physical transformation of a young girl into an elderly female, as her eyebrows and dark hair turn white. This potent image of her emotional and physical journey together with Peleg-Rothstein's extraordinary performance exposes the almost unimaginable devastation that sexual abuse has on children.

The title in Hebrew demotes 'simple' as well as 'undressed'. The play exposes the simple bare truth when it stripped off all social and emotional masks.

Miki Peleg-Rothstein's timeless script and unique performance produces a compelling drama. It is a play which will lose nothing in translation and cannot fail to shock and move with its universal tragic themes.

Rivka also interviewed writer and actress Miki Peleg-Rothstein

Reviewer: Rivka Jacobson

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