(seen at the Lyttelton Theatre afternoon preview performance on 7th
Recent history recedes in the mind more quickly than anyone notices. The action
in this play happened a mere 25 or so years ago... yet it is amazing how little
detail the monkey remembers. Fortunately, J.T. Rogers has written what could be
a definitive history – and must surely be a modern classic too.
The opening scenes are deceptively simplistic. Mona Juul (Lydia Leonard)
gives a peach of a performance as a Foreign Minister, breaking the fourth wall
as required to keep us updated on proceedings. Husband Terje (Toby Stephens) is
an Institute director who brings together the PLO and two Israeli Economists, in
secret and against the wishes of his bosses.
The result is the start of a road to peace in a troubled region, and three
hours of utterly gripping drama, leavened with humour (and the oldest Jewish
joke known, plus a couple of good newer ones).
PLO negotiator Ahmed Qurie (Peter Polycarpou) should be duking it out for
Oliviers come the season, his opponents Yair Hirschfeld (Paul Herzberg) and
particularly Uri Savir (Philip Arditti) looking at supporting honours.
Negotiations twist and turn, Toril Grandal’s (Geraldine Alexander) cooking
often the only point of agreement. Right to the last moment, nothing and
everything could happen. And continues to do so.
The monkey doesn’t mind admitting that it was in tears twice, over two simple
handshakes, such is the tension and cunning of the play’s construction. These
gestures, the inellectual chess and comedy fooling, matter equally; always
disconcerting and chewing on the nerves even as the mind spins.
The play never pulls punches – the atrocities on both sides are given equal
airing and video footage, the achievements celebrated equally.
For an insight into politics, history and simple humanity in the face of all
odds, this is compelling enough to be unmissable for anyone in power, with an
interest in global affairs or simply seeking the realist of real life drama.
5 Star, Standing Ovation recommendation.