Saturday October 23, 2021

Palestinians’ pine for freedom

March 19, 2017

Theatregoers were treated to a lively play about Palestine that casts the Palestine tragedy in a lighter vein to give the audience time to laugh at tragedies, at the Napa theatre on Saturday evening.

“Return to Palestine” was a gripping performance indeed and kept the audience giggling for most of the 45 minutes that the performance lasted. The play was staged by the Freedom Theatre of Palestine. 

Jad, a boy of Palestinian origin, born and brought up in the US, decides to go to Palestine in search of his identity, his moorings. He finds out that reality is not quite the same as you see in the news bulletins in the US. So, he decides to see things for himself first-hand. 

The whole play takes place in a space just a few feet in length and breadth. In a sarcastic, comic, but also tragic style, the cast create the space, characters and even the emotional spaces they live in in a virtuoso play with their bodies in a very small stage, “as small as Palestine”.

Despite the fact that the native language of none of the cast members was English, they seemed to be pretty fluent in it.

The play opens with the group on board an El Flight to Tel Aviv from the US. The cast members form the parts of the aeroplane, the seats and so on. On the flight, Jad befriends another Palestinian and they seem to hit it off well. Their banter is really humorous and keeps the audience laughing.

When they get to Palestine, Jad is in for surprises, both dismal and otherwise. He sees large palatial residence with centrally heated swimming pools and is impressed, but this feeling is at once transformed into negativity when he realises that all this has been achieved at the cost of the Palestinians’ blood and it is all a case of the usurpation of the Palestinians’ rights to hearth and home. 

The play also unfolds many complications that have arisen from the Palestine tragedy. At a certain juncture, the man Jad has befriended on board the aircraft has him introduced to another person as Jad from the US and Jad quickly intervenes to say that he is from Palestine, thus showing the way the US is frowned upon in Palestine because of its stubborn backing for the Israeli usurpers.

The compact size of the acting space is actually supposed to be connotative of a Palestinian prison camp in occupied Palestine.

Making a departure from the comic, humorous trend of the play, there is a tragic and touching bit when one of the characters says, “In 1948, they came and robbed us of our nationhood and our freedom. In 1967, they came and deprived us of our homeland and drove us into exile”. 

A number of these cast members have actually been picked up by the Israeli usurpers and kept in prison camps.

The play was part of the International Theatre and Music Festival under way at the National Academy of Performing Arts. The festival, which kicked off on March 16, will run till April 2.