Now you see it, now you don’t

Nadav Barnea presents ‘Pa’am’ at the Fringe festival in Acre.

‘Pa’am’ at the Fringe festival in Acre (photo credit: EYAL LANDSMAN)
‘Pa’am’ at the Fringe festival in Acre
(photo credit: EYAL LANDSMAN)
Nadav Barnea appears to be the consummate comprehensive artist. His burgeoning bio features an impressively eclectic range of projects that span numerous disciplines. To many, Barnea is a rock singer-guitaristkeyboardist, while others might know him better for the music he has written for a wide range of theatrical and dance productions. Then there is his lighting work. To describe the 27-year-old in cricketing terms, you could definitely put Barnea in the allrounder category.
Barnea will unveil his latest creation, Pa’am, at this year’s Acre International Fringe Theater Festival, which will take place at the ancient northern port town, for the 37th time, from October 17 to 20. Pa’am comprises elements of lighting design, sound and video, all put together by Barnea. The name of the performance features in English lettering, even though the word in Hebrew means “time” or “once”, with “once upon a time” connotations. So why the non- Hebrew lettered title? Barnea, typically, pulls a veil over his intent.
“I looked for a name that sounded a bit like gibberish,” he explains. “I tried out things in all kinds of languages, like Danish and Swedish. I looked for something that would reflect the nature of the work but, in some way, more distant.”
So was the idea to keep us guessing? To confuse us? “I wanted to confuse and to clarify, too,” Barnea continues in enigmatic fashion. “I wanted to confuse and to draw people in.”
Barnea says that he may not even make it to any of the shows, with the first show scheduled for the opening day of the festival, with three more daily on the remaining days of the program.
“The name context is pretty poignant right now,” he says. “My first daughter is due to be born on the first day of the festival, so we are very much into looking for names right now,” he adds with a laugh.
We had been chatting for a while but I didn’t feel any closer to fathoming what the artist is about to convey to his Acre audiences. To cut a long story short, the members of the audience will spend 60 minutes observing a stage with no actual, reallife tangible characters. Barnea has used audio recordings, lighting and projected images in a quest to enable the spectator to follow a long and winding road through snippets of memories and longing “towards a past that is still beating.” We will see some human beings during the course of the show, although they comprise three videoed interviewees – actors Doron Tavori and Ora Meierson and musician Eran Tzur.
“The title, Pa’am, references what takes place in the show,” Barnea proffers, adding that the show’s disciplinary format feeds off his daytime job endeavor.
“I work as a musician, and the main bulk of my work is writing music for theater and dance productions. I also do lighting for theater and dance. All that spawned an idea for a show without actors. You know, people who work behind the scenes often joke that the actors are the most superfluous element there is. You hear set designers and others joking that they’d be happy if the actors didn’t get in their way,” he says.
While Barnea has nothing against living, breathing thespians and, while appreciating that the theater personnel’s dark-hued banter was just that, a concept light bulb sparked into incandescent life.
“I started to play around with and develop the idea of a work that does take place in a theater space with the audience sitting frontally and looking at the theater area, but without there being any actual bodies there,” he explains. Then again, Barnea says he offers the members of his audiences plenty of points of interest and action to draw and hold their attention.
“Other than the physical body, there is everything.
You have the characters, the storyline, the music, lighting and a set – all the expected component parts, just without the presence of a body,” he says.
The director, creator etc. of Pa’am says he made sure he had some curiosity-inducing raw material.
“I took three people who interested me, and I thought that connecting with them might produce something interesting,” he states.
The triad in question all have tried and tested artistic credentials and are seasoned professionals. But that wasn’t the premise for the project. There was a more personal catalyst to hand.
“Our paths have crossed at all sorts of junctures in our professional lives,” Barnea explains. “I know Eran from the musical world. I met Doron Tavori through my work with the Gesher Theater, and I met Ora on a production at the Tmuna Theater. I felt that each one of them had something that can hold an audience with their voices alone – only through their speaking and telling their own story.”
The three characters don’t even appear on screens, but feel that the scripts they wrote for the show, which is not biographical, are sufficiently gripping to keep the audience on board throughout.
“I asked each of them about the earliest profound memories they have. They each took me deep into their memories and thoughts, and the work constantly revolves around the attempt to recall things, to remember what once was and what they miss from the past,” he says.
It sounds like something we can all connect with, and Barnea says the show is not just for Hebrew speakers.
“You can have a description of something, which may not seem whole, but then you automatically complete the picture yourself,” he posits. “You might add in the color of the walls in a room, what the mother who is being talked about looked like, and that sort of thing. It becomes a personal journey of each and every one in the audience too, regardless of where you come from or what language you speak. And the speech is synchronized with the music and lighting. I think it is something anyone can appreciate.”
It only remains to be seen whether Barnea attends the Acre show or puts in a shift at the maternity ward of Ichilov Hospital.
In addition to Pa’am, the four-day festival features troupes from abroad and all over the country, including free street perfornaces.
For tickets and more information about the festival: (04) 838-4777;