Yael Ronen
Cameri Theatre, Tel Aviv

Production photograph
Production photo

Plonter (= Mess) is a gripping presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspectives of both sides. Naturally the Palestinian aspect is emphasised.

Entering the theatre you are met by two males dressed in fully armed Israeli soldiers' uniform. They demand in Arabic to see the ID of every ticket holder wishing to enter. This is a prelude to what you are to experience, namely life under occupation and life in the shadow of terror.

The auditorium is darkened and the stage is sealed with four large grey slabs that make a concrete wall. These are gently moved by the nine actors and actresses. Two slabs to each side framing the stage with a double proscenium, exposing a kitchen-dinning room.

It is a home of the Peleg family. The father is glued to the TV and the mother, Zipi (Irit Kaplan) is busy preparing 'Arabic food' for special 'Arab' guests 'for the sake of peace', not appreciating the difference between Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians.

The guests are a young sophisticated couple who happened to be Israeli Arabs. The potential 'dialogue' round the table is dominated by Zipi's monologue. Kaplan's performance is brilliant. She is the embodiment of ignorance and prejudice well seasoned with confused 'lefty' views about 'co-existence and peace'. Her high-pitch shrieking voice elevates the scene into the realm of caricature and injects humour into the tragic reality in Israel and the occupied territories. Her son, Yoni, is a solider in an elite unit in the Israeli army and her married daughter, Michal, after two years of fertility treatment, has conceived.

The play is an amalgam of ten short, fragmented but not disjoined scenes which assist in the portrayal of the various facets of the tragic situation. The linking threads are the three families - the Pelegs, settlers and Palestinian families. They have all suffered bereavement in a different way but as a direct result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kahlil, a Palestinian child/youth, is shot dead.

A group of Palestinian women join the mourning mother (Rahida Adun, an Israeli Arab) in her lament of the loss of her young son. Adun's emotional outburst highlights the tragedy of the situation, where a mother has to comfort herself that her son's death is praiseworthy, as he is now elevated to be among Allah's chosen Shahids (martyrs). There is the sound of machine guns from a group of males dressed as Palestinians who chant curses on Israel and extol Khalil, and his elevation to heaven. The men shout slogans of revenge and their future success.

Mira Awad (her father is Palestinian and mother Bulgarian), here acting as a Palestinian woman, leads the 'song of lament' sung (in Arabic) by the mourning women. Her rich and tender voice captures the pain of loss.

A parallel plot follows and depicts a settlement infiltrated by Palestinians who eventually murder an innocent young child. Mira Awad acts the mother in this scene, highlighting the pain and agony of a mother in search of solace. The settlers demand revenge and other women claim attachment to the occupied land.

The children on both sides seem to be the victims.

Palestinian youths plan and execute suicide bombing. The outcome is death and maiming. Michal Peleg (Tamar Keynan-Inbar) aborts her coveted foetus in the suicide bombing.

Israelis fear on buses from potential suicide bombers is depicted in a manner that provides some light relief, where every Israeli-Arab is looked at as a potential suicide bomber. The impact of the Wall on the life of affected Palestinians humorously unmasks the pain and absurdity of that reality.

Death disfigures but also heals. It is an end and a beginning. In Yael Ronen's Plonter there are seeds of both. Ronen is very talented 30 year old playwright and director. Her mixed cast of Jewish- and Arab-Israeli actors - each actor plays both Israeli and Palestinian characters - add immediacy to the drama. Part of the play is performed in Hebrew with simultaneous translation into Arabic, and part in Arabic with simultaneous translation into Hebrew. English translation is available.

Regardless of one's political views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is a powerful play, which reflects the painful reality.

Must be seen.

Reviewer: Rivka Jacobson

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