Edinburgh Fringe 2009
The Other Side
Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot
The Other Side is inspired by the Radio 4 program of the same name about the growing movement that is linking the people of Palestine and Israel through telephone conversations and meetup groups, particularly those who have lost loved ones through violence. The actors play multiple roles and build their characters by going back and forth in time. It is a very well executed production and, uniquely, gives us basic humanism and hope from a part of the world that is in desperate need of it.
The actors use metal frames and white sheets to move between scenes as we witness the personal lives of people who have lost or are about to lose someone. Rami Awaad is an Israeli, he has lost his daughter to a suicide bomb, and he tells us his story in a confessional way as an opening to the play. This sets the fateful tone that we have come to expect from this particular conflict zone, yet the rest of the play is about finding the courage to make contact with the ‘other’ in order to heal.
The metal frames and white drapes are used in a number of ways to portray stairs, corridor, window, room, tank and many others. The actors move with grace and discipline and imagined space is expertly created in classic theatrical style. Simon Nader plays Rami as well as three others, and performs his roles with depth and sensitivity, particularly his portrayal of eighteen year old David whom we see as he argues with his mother Natalia, and deciding to serve his country: What follows is a truly chilling moment.
The writing stresses ‘Very simple talk, nothing political’, and it sticks to this. It is more about the psychological conflict between this endless war that scars those on both sides, and the personal impact on the ordinary people who have had their lives so damaged yet have no say in it: ‘One million calls between people on both sides, just imagine if the leaders would talk to each other, for one minute’: Communication, after all, is all it takes.
There is a strong flow to the piece, though sometimes it feels a little too laden with a wish to use the form to convey a lot of information. Though this doesn’t ever become too polemical, a further draft of this piece would benefit from a bit of editing.
The narrative arc is strong, and it comes together well at the end as Rami repeats his opening speech, this time at a ‘Parent Circle’ group. The structure is clear – and though its tone sometimes gets a little weepy – it is poignant. The physicality of the actors and the way they use the set is excellent. This is a timely production and importantly gives us, as a Western audience, positive news.