Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Anat Barzilay, playwright and one of Israel’s best loved stage and screen actors, portrays Samira in this one woman multi media show. Samira is an ordinary woman who is caught trying to blow herself up in a crowded café.
A woman is seated beside a large screen, dressed in black with a black headscarf. The screen comes alive with news interviews and eye witness accounts of a bomb blast. We learn that the woman failed in her bid to blow herself up and yet, threw the explosive device into a crowded café injuring many people and killing a five year old child. The play proceeds via interviews and interrogation by police officers on screen of Samira’s family and the few people that populate her tiny social world, interspersed antiphonally with Samira herself being interview on stage by an invisible interrogator.
We are taken via these interviews and interrogations into the social and religious world of a suicide bomber, that is, beneath the surface of western news casting and paranoia, and the play attempts to fill out the background of a possible scenario that might drive someone, in this case a woman and mother, to such an act.
The play however does not answer the question directly but rather gives the audience access to stories and styles of reasoning about her via the film projection on stage. Thus we learn of Samira through the eyes of her suspicious neighbour, and extended interviews with her husband whom she failed to bear a son. A mysterious influence is revealed in the form of Fahud, a young intellectual who encourages her to study and read, and spoke to her in a way she has never known, “with such respect, like I had a brain”. There are quotations from the Koran, but from each person’s unique perspective, all to she light on her terrible act.
Anat Barzilay plays the character of Samira with depth and great heart. However, at no point did she seek eye contact with the audience which could have really brought the character home. Seated at the side of the stage she averted her gaze up the aisle and missed a great opportunity for connection. Similarly the two dimensions of the 5 or so actors appearing on the screen had a dampening effect. I can only think that the defining factor here was the cost of flying actors from Israel and putting them up in Edinburgh for a month. There need not have been a screen at all, and in fact the script was crying out for the actors to be present on stage.
A thought-provoking production which leaves the judgement of this difficult issue entirely in that hands of the audience. Well acted by all parties, although it could have been greatly improved by having all the actors on stage and dispensing with the screen.