Review: Plonter, Barbican Pit Theatre
Written for Culture Wars, 06.02.2009
Unsurprisingly, given recent events in Gaza, Plonter’s force resides in its sheer urgency. The title means ‘tangle’ in Hebrew and The Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv offer a range of perspectives – human, political, satirical – that, together, give the sense of an ever-tightening and increasingly muddled knot. Rather than the calm rationality required to unpick the problems, the company suggest a quickfire impatience that serves only to confound them. The snapshots and sketches form a retrospective cycle of violent retribution where bloodshed leads only to bloodshed and an eye for an eye is no longer enough, making Plonter a damning indictment of spiralling short-sightness.
Though Plonter offers no solutions itself, it brims with glimpsed details ignored by international journalism and a fuzzy sense of the everyday existence. To get inside the auditorium, you must pass through a checkpoint at which identification is required, only to be confronted by stark, concrete slabs obscuring the entire stage. In playing the locked territorialism through the miniature conflicts occurring in its midst, the company place a very human mask on the politics. Family dinners bubble into riots, soldiers terrorise children and bus journeys are punctuated by paranoia – it is enough to coax an activist anger out of the most apolitical audient.
Yet, there is a peculiar hopelessness running through the scenes. In seeing the situation from either side, neither appears blameless and peace seems a distant impossibility. In spite of its fitful humour, the content almost becomes a nagging lament for human combustibility; a melancholy shrug at the stupidity of it all. This is, however, set in contrast by the event itself, devised and performed by a company made up of both Israelis and Palestinians. Difference dissolves on the stage, as Arabs play Jews and vice versa. Even the surtitles, in both Hebrew and Arabaic, as well as English, seem to blend into a shared language.
This lends a hint of the ridiculous that rears its head fully in the best sketch of the evening, in which a Palestinian house is divided by the barrier and its occupants forced to pass through a check point to use their bathroom and kitchen. The growing queue of family members faced by a young Israeli soldier begs the fundamental questions of ownership and control. What gives anyone the right? And, when a life lost is of less import than the bullet fired, does it really matter?
It may lack the magic and imagination of other offerings around at present but, with its weighty rootedness and pressing activism, Plonter has a power and drive seldom seen on the London stage. This is vocal soapbox theatre that demands attention.