Ballad Of The Burning Star

Theatre Ad Infinitum
Director, Writer, Performer: Nir Paldi
Unity Theatre
11th March 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

A lone drummer, Camp David (Pete Aves), hogs the right hand back corner of the stage, which is otherwise empty except for a glistening red curtain. After some cursory musical introduction there is a swish of activity and Star (Paldi) enters, outrageously dressed in gold lamé, and heavy make-up, a transsexual with default lines as inexplicable as his one man tour de force routine.

After rave reviews in Edinburgh, the international cast and reknowned reputation of Theatre Ad Infinitum have brought this unsettling and compelling cabaret piece to the Unity. Star starts by saying to someone in the crowd 'make sure you know where the emergency exits are in case someone in the audience has brought a bomb with them'; to edgy tittering from a nearly full house, this is as good as the humour gets.

If not from a bomb there is plenty of fallout to be enacted over the next one act, lasting 75 minutes. Intense rhetoric and heart searching in your face questioning of what it is to be generically Jewish or Arabic unfolds as the ongoing Palestinian question is put under the microscope.

Star is supported on stage by a ninja style pack of five female actors/dancers, excellently choreographed, by Orian Michaeli. These join him on the agonising journey that has afflicted the Jewish nation over the centuries, from Roman times onwards up until the inception of Israel in 1948, and in the wars and conflicts beyond - despite Star's prompt, this not the best time to go to the toilet as a litany of persecution and aggression is breathlessly sung behind him.

School, family institutions, teenage high kicks, the army; nothing is left untouched as grandparents remember the concentration camps, parents demand loyalty and affiliation to the flag, teenagers run the gauntlet in cars near the border with Palestine; and then there is the army.

Star is conscripted and his conflicted personality, after a botched incursion, adds a sclerotic dimension to his monologue. His mind is stripped bare between duty and conscience and the schizophrenic nature of it all climaxes with the death of an innocent and the look of hatred in another Arabic boy's eyes.

Casting aside his facade Israel becomes a bare chested figure of a man that can masquerade no longer in the make-believe world of greasepaint that has allowed the story to unfold. Powerful stuff indeed.

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