Writer: Nir Paldi
Directors: Nir Paldi &George Mann
Music: Adam Pleeth
Reviewer: Sue Collier
Having had the unfortunate experience of being evacuated from a London theatre as a result of a bomb warning, the opening sequence of Ballad of the Burning Star produces quite a significant effect on one’s feeling of personal safety. Nevertheless, by opening the show with a terrorist bomb warning, it certainly grabs your immediate attention to this gripping and daring production.
Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Ad Infinitum Nir Paldi, writes, directs and plays the central character Star, who represents Israel. Star is a domineering and powerful drag queen who says and does exactly what she wants, regardless of her effect on others. She is supported by her cabaret troop ‘The Starlets’ who represent the Palestinians and the other characters within Star’s stories.
Star is a storyteller who gives an unbiased account by explaining the Jewish/Palestinian conflict through the experiences of all the parties involved. She performs to an audience who represent the rest of the countries of the world as the onlookers of the seemingly endless chain of events happening within a conflicted Jewish state. Throughout the performance one felt incredibly fortunate to live in such a relatively peaceful environment.
Prior to Star’s appearance on stage and during the entire performance, live music is creatively performed by composer Adam Pleeth, in the guise of a character named Camp David. At times this music did feel a little monotonous and the volume was rather high and so occasionally obscured the dialogue.
By effectively using a satirical cabaret format full of music and dance, this show is at times shockingly inventive but the benefit of this is that it really helps one to develop a greater depth of understanding of the Israeli conflict. This is achieved through the giving of daring and moving accounts of events such as the Lebanon war, the loss of family in Auschwitz, the terrible living conditions imposed on the Palestinians and most movingly via the story of a young boy named Israel who when a young man, by avenging his brother’s death, moves from the position of victim to villain.
The Starlets, who are dressed in military uniform and wear dark, menacing makeup, give an incredibly energetic military style dance performance which is truly admirable. Star bullies, dominates and criticises her Starlets, and by doing so she demonstrates attributes of racist behaviour that have led to the persecution of Jews throughout history.
The shockingly powerful ending of Ballad of the Burning Star is incredibly poignant and provides the incendiary bomb to our emotions. Paldi’s stunning performance intelligently changes the experience for an audience who have enjoyed Star’s challenging wit and humour throughout the earlier stages of the presentation.
Throughout the 75 minutes of this one act play, Theatre Ad Infinitum present an edgily stunning and thoughtful account via high quality, meaningful story telling which is very bold, adult in style and at times quite uncomfortable. This is a show which packs a punch, is admirable and very well worth seeing.
Reviewed on: 10 October 2014