THE KEEPERS OF INFINITE SPACE
by Omar El-Khairy.
Park Theatre (Park 90) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park To 16 February 2014.
Tue-Say 7.45pm Sun 3.15pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 January.
A play that neglects its strongest aspects.
Omar El-Khairy’s play opens intriguingly, as smartly-suited Palestinian Khalil walks on to give a presentation on a smart-looking new housing development, including properties with sea views. Named after its hillside location, Rawabi will gleam hopefully and high amid notorious names of conflict – Ramallah, Nablus – and not too far from the progressive Israeli city Tel Aviv.
But he falters, knowing his son Saeed has been arrested for suspected terrorism, and the action soon moves to the metal cage of a cell where the young man is interrogated by two guards, the hardline Yael, in her mid-twenties, and the younger Ziv, given a home in Israel from Ethiopia, and expected to quash any distress he feels at administering a beating.
Behind the beatings is the intense, remorseless Abner, his determination to defend his country against any threat conveyed with steely restraint by John Wark. When Saeed’s not being beaten he’s being encouraged to spill beans by a shadowy provocateur, or resting in a cell, placed rather inconveniently for sightlines at the side of a set by Philip Lindley which has to accommodate the full width of the Park 90.
Newcomers to plays about political imprisonment and beatings might find the attacks on Saeed distressing. But there have been many such scenes (there are rather a lot of them here) in plays set around the troubled world, and they soon settle either into the routine (‘obviously this isn’t really happening – what convincing acting’) or a suppressed excitement that, because it’s not real, creates a voyeuristic thrill in audiences.
Neither of these is constructive, and neither takes us further into the situation. The real conflict, and the debate that could create a sharper dramatic focus, is flung to the margins. Saeed, a bookshop-owner whose brother is the terrorist, learns his father had, when younger, been involved in the insurgency.
By keeping them apart until the end, the injection of personal relaationships that might have fired-up the action, and the question of whether Khalil has bought into a more positive way forward or merely sold-out, never come to prominence in Zoe Lafferty’s stolid, unevenly-acted production.
Saeed: Edmund Kingsley.
Yael/Sara/Claire: Laura Prior.
Khalil: Hilton McRae.
Abner: John Wark.
Ziv/Tom: Cornelius Macarthy.
Haneen/Asma: Sirine Saba.
Tarek/Muhib: Patrick Toomey.
Shadi: Philip Correia.
Director: Zoe Lafferty.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Johanna Town/
Sound/Music: Richard Hammarton.
Costume: Susan Kulkarni.
Fight director: Tim Klotz.
Dramaturg: Carissa Hope Lynch.
Assistant director: David Mumeni.