Writer/Director: Nir Paldi
Reviewer: Teddy Lamb
This comedic drag cabaret act exploring the Israeli/Palestine conflict was the surprise hit of 2013’s Edinburgh Fringe, and it arrives in London following a thorough UK Tour. Firstly, it must be noted that the atmosphere at Battersea Arts Centre was electric, the beautiful building was buzzing with arty youngsters and liberals with their noses buried in the guardian, ready and excited to witness what was expected to be a mind blowing experience.
The production starts as it means to go on, with its tongue firmly in cheek announcing that bombs may go off and terrorists may attack the theatre, from then we are greeted by the butch and bitchy Star (writer and director Nir Paldi) who will guide us through the conflict, introducing on her way musician Camp David (Pete Aves) and her group of dancers The Starlets (including a standout performance from Amy Nostbakken.)Through movement, song and a lot of exposition the company (always lead by Star) tell us the story of Israel, the country and Israel the boy. The ideas are strong, but the execution is neither tight enough to be pristine or messy enough to be deliberately so.
As an audience member one enjoys working during a performance, filling in blanks and drawing my own conclusions but both myself and my companion felt confused frequently, not only due to lack of contextual knowledge but also due to weak vocals and garbled words. The fact that ‘Star’ introduces herself as ‘writer and director’ then tells the audience she will also be playing the lead as (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘no one else is good enough’ and then proceeds to order the Starlets around for the rest of the evening should make a point about victimhood, and about oppression but instead it clutters up an otherwise tight evening and the idea isn’t given the gestation period it needs.
There are lots of clever ideas but ultimately they don’t get a chance to breath in a show that attempts to fit everything and the kitchen sink into a 70 minute performance. The personal narrative at the heart of the production is drawn from Nir Paldi’s own experiences, and although once or twice it is heightened by the Starlets interaction the most moving part of the evening is easily the denouement, where Star, wiggles and vulnerable finally opens up and talks to us as Nir.
Overall, Ballad of the Burning Star is an exciting idea that has been realised in an infuriating manner, valuing style over substance and lacking the heart that the narrative deserves.
Photo: Alex Brenner | Runs until 8th March