by Jason Sherman.

Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 12 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm, 24 Feb 2.30pm (+post-show discussion).
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 February.

History and the individual conscience spark fiery drama.
Several things might put people off the Orange Tree’s latest show, a 1996 Canadian play about the then two-year old mass shooting of muslims at prayer by a Jew, Baruch Goldstein in the Israeli city of Hebron. It’s 100 minutes without interval, it focuses on a grim event, and any play where the majority of characters are 1st Man, 2nd Woman sounds forbiddingly anonymous.

But this is the Orange Tree, most humane and least pretentious of theatres, whose Director (of both theatre and production) Sam Walters would not have programmed Jason Sherman’s play had it not been both moving and fascinating.

It starts as documentary – so much that David Antrobus take on the house-management role of asking people to switch-off mobiles before introducing the government inquiry into whether or not Goldstein was a lone assassin.

But it soon veers into the personal nightmare of Antrobus’s character, Nathan Abramowitz, a Jew so free in his views some would call him renegade. Living in a different continent, they say, he knows nothing of daily fears in Israel. His duality refracts that of Hebron, where Jews and Palestinians had usually lived in peace together.

Telephone conversations are played as Nathan’s nightmare predictions, his name provoking hostility and obstruction in his search for the truth about Hebron, before their actual polite wording – which has much the same ultimate effect. Detached handsets become weapons of aggression. And Nathan has to cope with family demands along the way.

Antrobus gives his character a moral zest that keeps him going in the most frustrating times. The Men and Women are adept at swift shifts between characters from all viewpoints, and mixing of very realistic and fantasy moments as they flit through Nathan’s mind. These switches are as assured as the farcical mechanisms Walters offered in the Orange Tree’s recent French farce Once Bitten.

For this is, in a sense, the nightmare of farce applied to the nightmare of conscience in a complex, dfficult world. Sherman’s writing and intricate structure, plus the Orange Tree’s skilled company, provide an absorbing 100 minutes where an interval would be an intrusion.

Nathan Abramowitz: David Antrobus.
1st Man: Ben Nathan.
2nd Man: Peter Guinness.
1st Woman: Amber Agha.
2nd Woman: Esther Ruth Elliott.

Director: Sam Walters.
Lighting: John Harris.
Assistant director: Teunkle Van Der Sluijs.

2011-02-20 12:16:37

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