Director: Julia Pascal
Writer: Julia Pascal
Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster
“Timeless” is a word that is tossed around extremely frequently these days, but it is certainly the most appropriate word to describe Julia Pascal’s Crossing Jerusalem. The play originally debuted in 2003, but it provides a relevant and humanising critique of Arab-Israeli relations 12 years on, especially when last year’s escalation in violence in the region is considered.
The plot focuses on a Jewish-Israeli family, and how its members relate to each other, their country, their religion, and, of course, the non-Jewish people of Israel. The Kauffman family have dinner at the restaurant of a Christian Arab man whose father used to work for them, but was fired for theft, and whose younger brother is now becoming interested in violence and extremism. We spend more time with the Kauffmans, but we also get the Khallil perspective. The most interesting outcome of this is that we see the many similarities between the two cultures, with guilt and shame regarding sex the most obvious one.
While the title suggests dynamic action, the small stage space and extremely personal scenes make for a claustrophobic, intense atmosphere, in which the dangers the characters face seem all too real. This climaxes with the disintegration of Varda Kauffman-Goldstein, wonderfully played by Trudy Weiss, whose exhaustion, even before her son, Gideon, is killed, represents not just a woman, or even a family, at breaking point, but an entire country.
We see the inhumanity, but also the humanity, of the situation, and so we are largely left to make up our own minds. There are some moments of humour, often provided by Varda’s husband, Sergei, these are then balanced with the intensity of the young male characters, especially Gideon, who recounts the story of his friend’s death while serving in the Israeli army, the most beautifully written section of the play.
There are a number of references to technology that are unfortunately out of date now, and it would have benefit from a more lavish set, but this is a crucial piece for anyone who wants theatre to help them think.
Photo: Mia Hawk