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The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil,    but because of the people who don't do anything about it    
Occupation magazine - Commentary

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From the West Bank
Mark Fisher
Tron theatre, Glasgow
The Guardian
May 10, 2010

After blanket coverage of the intricacies of the British political system, how refreshing to be reminded of the wider world. And how invigorating, in this opening salvo of Mayfesto, a two-week programme of politically inspired drama, to see it done so consummately.

In three short and substantial plays, actor-directors Cora Bissett and Ewan Donald – joined on stage by an equally authoritative Benny Young – take us to a Palestine where righteous anger vies with philosophical resignation as the only workable response to an unjust occupation. Performed with grace and clarity, these vignettes capture the rage, bewilderment and hope-against-hope that is born out of oppression.

It opens with An Imagined Sarha, a new adaptation by David Greig of a memoir by Raja Shehadeh, whose When the Bulbul Stopped Singing he adapted for Edinburgh`s Traverse in 2004. As in that play, Shehadeh comes across as the wise and urbane Palestinian, this time bridging a seemingly impossible cultural divide as he joins a hashish-smoking Israeli settler in the Ramallah hills and, transcending prejudice, discovers a common humanity.

In contrast to Shehadeh`s guru-like patience, the Bedouin refugee in Franca Rame`s An Arab Woman Speaks is a fiery activist with no tolerance for injustice. Superbly played by Bissett, she tells a distressing and inspirational true story that makes the link between the oppression of women and the subjugation of a people.

It is a story that ranges from domestic violence to political assassination, a narrative arc that is hard for the outsider to contemplate. It is this sense of disconnection that Greig captures in the third play, Ramallah, a wry sketch in which a playwright finds himself incapable of communicating his tourist`s eye view of the Middle East to his wife. In her indifference and his effusiveness we see our own conflicted response to the region.

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