Bitter Fruit harvests an intelligent look at the Israeli conflict

Review by Paul Nelson

AT The Pleasance there is a short season of readings, late night cabaret and debates looking at the way theatre can help us understand the politics the morality and the pity of war.

Presented by the Caird Company and the Pleasance Theatre the season under the generic title Playing Soldiers, ends on April 28 and is well worth checking out.

On Friday (April 12) the reading was Bitter Fruit of Palestine by Richard Morris.

Coming hot on the heels of the comparatively detached Passion at the Chelsea Theatre, the play examines the creation of Israel starting with the attempted extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

It follows the process through to the present conflict between what were, after all, the indigenous people of Palestine who, having had their land redistributed originally by the British, found further incursions through the Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

Morris does not find it difficult to set out the case for both points of view, clearly, concisely and dramatically, though it seems at first sight that the Israelis are behaving exactly like the Nazis, this time though with righteousness on their side.

In a formidable argument the young zealots of Israel eerily echoing Nazism, ultimately confront the older faith of Jewry in the form of an elder rabbi who himself was displaced during the 39-45 war. This impact brings the drama and the arguments to a head and the play to a most dramatic conclusion.

The play eventually, by way of establishing the events of today, gives the Palestinians its sympathy but with the obvious and dreadful warning that those in the womb today will inevitably be worse terrorists tomorrow.

The strong dramatic power of the piece is evident, and for those who think Morris is jumping on an immediately contemporary bandwagon, during an absorbing short discussion after the reading, the author admitted the play had taken approximately two years to realise.

The performers of the reading were uniformly matched and admirably conformed to the director's wishes in under six hours of rehearsal making the event memorable.

The season is short and well worth the effort, on the part of both the Caird Company and the audience.

The fascination is to wait and see if Bitter Fruit of Palestine or indeed any of the other plays from this season will get a full production in the near future.

Judging by the response from the audience, this one at least deserves such treatment.

Bitter Fruit of Palestine by Richard Morris. Directed by Ruth Carney. WITH Alan Williams (Sakini/Kohler/Singer), Sarah Finch (Sara/Golda), William Osborne (Israel/Rabbi Ben Yehuda), Simon Muller (Dr Katchen/Gestapo Officer/David), Richard Heap (Interrogator/Heinrich), Charlotte Divers (Rebecca). Presented by The Caird Company and The Pleasance Theatre at The Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London N7. 020 7609 1800.

Click here to go through to the Pleasance Theatre's Playing Soldiers page...