Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Two Palestinian performers beautifully integrate circus skills and dance in a moving and impactful performance about the expectations, and social codes required growing up in Palestine
This is a moving and impactful dance piece integrating circus skills from Palestinian performers Ashtar Muallem and Fadi Zmorrod. This is no ordinary circus skill-based show, for the themes explored are of life, personal and social expectations and limitations in Palestine. Cleverly constructed and beautifully performed by Muallem and Zmorrod, they play with wooden bricks and speak – supertitles on the back wall translate, “Sit down” “Go to your Room”. The immediate atmosphere is of parental restrictions. These are probably common behaviour guidelines heard by the very young everywhere, but these two performers have additional advice to deal with – moreover, requirements that are enforced starting at childhood and continuing through adult lives.
Through a series of skill-based theatrical dance scenes the performers briefly tell us the requirements they are expected to live by and interpret them by applying circus skills of acrobatics, aerial and pole climbing and dance very creatively. The parallel physicalized story of life in their country is often emotional as the pair sulk, watch each other, and interact aggressively. Gender is explored in different ways when the male is “not so kind to her” and at 8 years old she “wasn’t allowed to wear mini skirts any more”. As each speaks the other reacts in movement, sometimes contorting with angst, sometimes lyrical, individually and together – always fascinating and vital. Their dynamic movements are symbolic actions that stand for their lives. This is not all stereotypical, the men also have expectations to deal with.
A score of music and sound accompanies the piece – at times beautiful, rich, metallic and chaotic – complementing the frustration and complex codes they have to live by. Volatile and direct, the performers remember moments from their youth and hope. She is beautiful and climbs the pole and cord lithely, with outstanding muscularity and leg extensions. He is athletic, hand balances lifting her easily with huge jumps up and off the high pole like a cat. The quality of skills, depth of subject, music and how this all comes together make this a truly fascinating piece. The performers show their point of view subtly and the audience is free to interpret the dance and circus skills as entertaining, poignant and visceral. The message is one that lingers offering room for reflection on freedom and our own lives.