A visitor to the site has sent us these thoughts on THE WALL.
Tucked away in The New End, Hampstead is a theatrical gem in the shape of Douglas Watkinson’s The Wall. Critical of Israel’s policy on the barrier wall you might think you’d be in for two hours haranguing but not so! (More follows when you open the notes.)The Wall treads on delicate ground right from the start, but having set foot on its proposed journey, Douglas Watkinson’s beautifully crafted play doesn’t once look back or falter in its stride.
David Weatherstone has visited the military cemetery in Ramleh, Israel, in search of his father’s grave. On finding it he’s a good deal more affected than he expected to be and as emotion gets the better of him so he is joined by a young Royal Artillery corporal who turns out to be his father, Ralph, killed by the Stern gang in 1947.
As the two men get to know each other, trying to bridge a gap of half a century, so Ralph asks an odd favour of his son. He needs his help to take down the barrier wall between Israel and Palestine and asks him to write a letter to Benjamin Netanyahu. He has good reason for his request. The elderly Arab who tends the cemetery once had a twenty minute walk to work. The Wall has turned that into a two hour journey. At the checkpoint he is invariably detained, abused and humiliated and understandably is considering quitting his job.
Watkinson isn’t the first to tell us of the barrier wall’s downside, of course, but he gives us the facts in a truly interesting and memorable form. This is no stodgy political debate stuffed into the mouths of the two main characters. It is the fascinating and wittily presented story of a man who stumbles across his father’s last resting place only to be given a monumental task. He’s never going to bring The Wall down, but what he does manage to achieve is a clear sighted view of his father. The hero of his childhood memories is happy to reveal his true self towards the end of the play, if only to allow the two men to part on truthful, amicable terms. The Wall remains.
The son is played by Eric Carte, clear and assured with flashes of raw emotion barely held in check. His young father is played by Duncan Clyde who handles the complexity and weight of Ralph with ease and utter conviction. This is Olivia Rowe’s second production at New End. She directs with assurance. The set design by Kate Blumenthal is superb, combining orange grove and cemetery without either getting in the other’s way.
I’ve heard rumblings that the play is anti-Semitic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s certainly critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and it’s a tribute to Brian Daniels at New End that he decided to put The Wall on in the first place. It runs until the June 3rd and is certainly worth seeing.