How to Make a Revolution – Finborough Theatre

Reviewer: Helen Tope

Director: Tommo Fowler

Writers: Einat Weizman and Issa Amro

An unflinching look at hidden injustice, documentary play How to Make a Revolution is part of the Finborough Theatre’s new digital initiative, Finborough Frontier. The play examines a year in the life of Palestinian political activist, Issa Amro.

Filmed at Finborough and on location, Amro introduces us to contemporary Palestine, where protests against Israeli occupation are met with arrest and a day in Military Court. The average trial lasts 10 minutes.

Starting with a bare stage, Amro appears as himself, alongside a fictionalised version played by Ramzi DeHani. He stage directs, overseeing the positioning of the ‘court’ to who will play which part. This play utilises footage and stagecraft to build Amro’s story of hope and defiance. How to Make a Revolution uses court transcripts – the sound of a typewriter can be heard busy at work – while key dates and details are starkly presented on screen. The charges levelled at Amro; the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre which became a turning point in the conflict. Co-written by Amro and Einat Weizman, How to Make a Revolution is not just a recording of first-hand experience, but a wider look into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Dubbed by the United Nations as a defender of human rights, Amro narrates the play in both his real and fictionalised form. Born and raised in Hebron, Amro remembers the happy bustling streets of his youth turning into a war zone as his city became part of the West Bank Occupied Territories. Actively riling against the occupation, Amro attracts the attention of the authorities. In 2016, he is detained by the Israeli State on 18 different charges, and taken to Ofer Military Court.

The legal system is a barely functioning facade. Incredulous accusations, fudged testimony – this is not about seeing justice being done, but rather the court acts as a warning, to “kill off the spirit of resistance”. As a well-known activist, Amro is given good representation (in the court scenes, we witness laser-sharp questioning from Jasmine Naziha Jones’ Defence) but he is careful to point out that his status earns him a privileged position. The conviction rate for most Palestinians is around 99%.

This is a production more concerned with issues than performances, but in its delivery of the facts, it is highly persuasive. What is heartening about the play is that despite the Kafka-esque nightmare in which Amro finds himself, there are avenues left to explore. Amro is a compelling presence, and really sells the possibility of lasting change. Grass-roots activism, the rise of social media – the closed society preferred by the occupying troops is becoming less viable.

But Amro is careful to reiterate that change also has to come from outside. In a play where the truth cannot be entirely blotted out, How to Make a Revolution also merges the documentary with the poetic, where Amro’s memories and use of proverbs become moments of power. An optimism persists, even when Amro and Weizman remind us that a master’s tools will never dismantle a master’s house.

Available here until 28 February 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Highly persuasive

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