'Abu Ubu in the Butchers' Market' -
Adapted by Francois Abou Salem
Directed by Abou Salem and Paula Fuenfeck
'A Reparation' -By Yoav Bartal & Avigail Rubin
'Sunset Halls' - Written and directed by Shiri Jorano
Without question, the Arabic language production Abu Ubu is one of the finest productions at Acre, and young Adham Nu'man, who plays Ubu's son, should definitely be a major contender for Best Actor. At work in his Jerusalem butchers' shop, ambitious Abu Ubu (Abou Salem) seeks to become clan mukhtar, no matter who he has to stomp on to get there. He enlists his son to help him, but the son intends to get the post for himself. To watch this exposition squared of greed, lust, envy and the rest of the Seven Deadly Sins requires a strong stomach. The liver, lights, and other offal are real, as are the sheep's and goats' heads that are used variously as oracle and sacrifice, and are themselves a metaphor for the carnage that ends the play. The voice of moderation - Nu'man as the mother in voice over and video - is not only ignored but slaughtered in its turn. Ever more lurid and unfettered, the pair's enacted fantasies never leave the store and at the end they and their dreams are dead; a fate, the playwright seems to be suggesting, that Palestinian society is headed towards unless it comes to grips with reality.
Earlyish in A Reparation one of the characters says "this whole thing looks like nonsense," and unfortunately it is not far from that. Billed as dance-theater, the play is more talk than dance, and if there is a point, it never gets there. The only trait to come through loud and clear is the Israeli coach's (and by default our) arrogant assumption of superiority. Loosely, the piece is built around the Acre Municipality's fictional decision to take into custody the movers and shakers of last year's riots, both Jews and Arabs, and subject them to forced interaction - presumably to break down barriers. It works, sort of. The prisoners unite against the authorities. And because the play fails them, the performances, alas, are often much too self-conscious. Where was the guidance on this work?
Sunset Halls suffers from a surfeit of good ideas that lack focus. However imaginative, however non-linear, a performance piece must avoid the self-indulgent and have a through line. The audience is the wedding guests at Sunset Halls and is welcomed by the rapturous family whose united front fragments to show the individual's pain, loneliness and fears. The idea of the wedding is not enough. The actors, on the other hand, were very focused, each fully absorbed and absorbing no matter who took center stage.