Writer: Hassan Mahamdallie
Directors: Evie Manning and Rhiannon White
Reviewer: Rich Jevons
Common Wealth produce site specific theatre and are based in Bradford and Cardiff. They have an impressive roster of previous work including Radical Acts, We’re Still Here, No Guts, No Heart, and Our Glass House.
I Have Met the Enemy is directed by Evie Manning and Rhiannon White and devised by Common Wealth in collaboration with writer Hassan Mahamdallie and Comra Films. The three performers are Alexander Eley, a British army veteran serving ten years in uniform including two tours if Afghanistan, as well as being a techno DJ and this is his theatrical debut; Mo’min Swaitat, a Uk based Palestinian and theatre-maker from Jemin where he trained at Freedom Theatre; and Shatha Altowai an artist from Yemen collaborating with Comra Films.
The show starts at a military arms sale where you could buy the most destructive weapons on the earth. The products are described and the audience are encouraged to snap up a bargain. Metronomes shine and are passed to members of the audience to reveal a character, sometimes related to warfare, sometimes to the lives of the actors.
It soon becomes clear that fact and fiction are being blurred and played with. Alex goes on manoeuvres and his stance and posture is quite imposing as he cuts through the audience in a martial march. It turns out that Mo’min has suffered much at the hands of Palestine’s occupiers, resulting, as with Alex, in Post Traumatic Stress.
One of the releases from this is the rave scene with techno pumping out massive sounds which get many in the audience dancing frantically. Then there is a scene where the two performers lay back and reflect on their lives, in some ways almost parallel.
Shatha is on a projected film and interacts with the action throughout, so well-rehearsed that you would think it was a live link. An audience member is asked to film an attack as smoke bombs and chaotic movement ensue around the space.
The laser projections give another layer to the proceedings and are mesmerising and entrancing. Then there is a quiet moment when Shatha arranges a meal in the middle of the space and we are introduced to her customs and manners. But what is particularly touching is that such things are no more in her Yemen house which is in ruins.
This is an incredibly immersive and disturbing piece of theatre that is both shocking and thought-provoking. We leave thinking how can we fight back against the warmongers, who will listen to our cries for peace?
Tours to Byker Community Centre | Image: Contributed