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I Am A Warehouse, Newhaven Fort, May 21
Giving a completely balanced account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was never going to be easy. And although Brighton Theatre gave it a good try with this ambitious production, it wasn't wholly successful.
The main reason for the Newhaven Fort location was to provide a home for an art installation linked to the story of the shelling of a neutral UN compound in the centre of Gaza. But the minimal artwork, based around munitions, wreckage and a looping piece of audio, all scattered around the crowded tunnels and passageways added little to the overall show, which ultimately took place in a large corrugated iron shelter on the Fort site.
The show revolved around four characters, representing the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the conflict, and the neutral warehouse in the centre. Their contribution was almost like an extended tone poem - which contained some memorable lines, but could have been cut down by half without losing any substance.
The real meat came from the film section in the middle, a stunning eyewitness account by the UN's Jodie Clark, of the Israeli shelling on January 15, 2009, which saw the UN lose five warehouses stocked full of supplies aimed to help nearly a million Palestinian refugees in the Gaza strip.
Her breathtaking descriptions of the white phosphorous being used on the compound, and the hours the UN staff spent fighting an impossible battle against an unstoppable blaze was expertly interspersed with archive footage.
When we returned to the live action it seemed painfully slow in comparison, not helped by an extended monologue by a very unsympathetic “Israeli” which shifted the balance of the show quite squarely towards the Palestinians. The closing a capella section featuring all four actors was memorable as a eulogy to the dream that had been lost.
Once the performance was over, the problem of being trapped in a site several miles from Brighton reared its head, as the audience was given the option of eating an authentic Middle Eastern meal and talk about the issues raised by the play, or mooching around the fort for an hour or more.
It was a very worthy and brave attempt to approach a very difficult issue, but perhaps suffered from trying to do too much at once.