Via Dolorosa by David Hare, performed by Patrick Dickson. Directed by Moira Blumenthal at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, October 3-6, 2001.
I have had occasions in my teaching past when a top-class student, on whose assignment I had written Excellent A++, would approach me crestfallen. "You haven't told me why! You wrote such a long comment on Jane's, and she only got B. I need to know what you really thought about my work."
It was difficult to know how to tell such a student that her work outstretched my capacity to criticise, even constructively. David Hare's play about Palestine and Israel is in this class. I find it hard to imagine how he could have gathered so much detail from questioning and listening to so many people, holding the diversity of conflicting beliefs in his head all together, and shaping the experience of his travels into a kind of documentary drama in which he makes himself the central character on stage.
And then the writing is so good that an excellent actor like Patrick Dickson has no trouble convincing us that he is David Hare the playwright, who acts out for us politicians, theatre directors, taxi drivers, British Council "minders", US and Canadian Jewish settlers, Palestinian intellectuals with the dramatist's tendency to satirise, and his sense of despair. Using a simple set and easy transitions in lighting and sound, Dickson's timing was excellent, framing the visit to a country where political argument is rife - and 100,000 have died since the Oslo peace agreement - between the quiet bookends of Hampstead Heath, in a country where political argument seems to have lost its point.
Prime Minister Blair follows the popularity, Hare says, but he doesn't tell us what he really thinks. "Send your Blair over here, please" cries a Jewish or Palestinian from the back of the crowd in a land where everyone knows what everyone thinks, and divisions between the religious and the secular, between the principled and the corrupt, between those who see the truth and those who hypocritically refuse to look, not only divide Palestinian from Israeli, but Palestinian from Palestinian and Israeli from Israeli. And Christian from Christian.
Via Dolorosa has humour, weighs all sides equally in the scales of justice, engages our passions yet leaves us to think more clearly than we might expect since September 11: Excellent A++.© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
Return to Frank McKone's Home Page