RETURNING TO HAIFA
by Ghassan Kanafani.
Adapted for the stage by Ismail Khalidi & Naomi Wallace.
The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 4ED to 24 March 2018.
Tues- Sat 7.30 MatSat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 80 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652
Review: William Russell 8 March.
A powerful plea for reconciliation and understanding
In 1948 after the British left Palestine the Israelis embarked on their land grab of Palestinian and Arab villages. Among the displaced were Said (Ammar Haj Ahmad) and Safiya (Myriam Acharki), a young married couple. In the confusion they were separated from the baby son. In 1967 they were able to return when the borders were re-opened after the Six Day War to the home they had lost to find it occupied by Miriam (Marlene Sidaway), a middle aged widow and a holocaust survivor. Like them she is a displaced person.
Their meeting is at the heart of this fascinating drama as they discover that Miriam has an adopted son who is called Dov (Ethan Kai). He is the son they lost. But given his upbringing he is not a Palestinian but an Israeli, a Jew and the two men clash over their future. The two stories of the young Said and Safiya and their 40 year old selves are intermingled so that we see both their past and their present.
Dov’s battles with Said, re fierce, both being impetuous and bull headed men. The women watch, mothers wondering whether they are gaining or losing a son, the boy determined to cling to the world he has been brought up in, the father equally determined in his opposition to that world.
Kanafi’s celebrated novella adapts well to the stage, although it might work better as a film when the actors playing Said and Safiya could play both their older and younger selves and the actor playing Said could also play Dov. However it is a powerful evening which makes its case for mutual understanding well and is both handsomely staged and directed.
The play was originally commissioned by New York’s Public Theatre, but abandoned after political pressure – all credit to the Finborough for providing it with a stage.
Said: Amman Haj Ahmad.
Safiya: Myriam Acharki.
Young Safiya: Leila Ayad.
Young Said/Dov: Ethan Kai.
Miriam: Marlene Sidaway.
Director: Caitlin McLeod.
Set & Costume Designer: Rosie Elnile/
Lighting Designer: Joshua Gadsby.
Sound Designer: David Gregory.
Movement Director: Lanre Malaolu.