On a contested piece of land near the village of Beit al-Qadir, two Palestinians are about to go dogging.

“This is a serious play about Palestinians- you’re not allowed to laugh – ok I’m joking”.

© Ali Wright

two Palestinians go dogging, is written by Sami Ibrahim, who received the Theatre Uncut Political Playwriting Award in 2019 for the play. The play uses the lens of humour to explore how the everyday becomes political and the political becomes everyday in a conflict zone.

“It’s 2043 – half of you are dead, the other half of you are voting Tory”

Set in 2043, and focusing on Reem (Hala Omran), a Palestinian woman surviving within the conflict zone. The village in which Reem and her family live is on a road between the North and South Banks. If the village were to be destroyed it would mean that the these two parts of Palestine would no longer be connected and hopes for a united state of Palestine would be ruined.

The play starts relatively light heartedly. With the cast dancing to grime music and pulling audience members up to join them. Maybe don’t sit in the front row if you’re not a fan of audience participation! Reem narrates the story and speaks to the audience directly, using a microphone throughout the play. At the start she cracks some jokes and it feels as if you’ve walked into a stand up gig, but the intensity of the play soon takes hold of you.

The lighting in this production by Jackie Shemesh is used exceptionally well, and is complemented by Zakk Hein’s video design. There is a scene where smoke floods the stage and the lights are turned out except from a small amount of light at the back of the stage. This means that the performers become silhouettes against a smokey background, which is incredibly atmospheric. They also help the audience to visualise the Red Zone by using lighting on the stage floor.

© Ali Wright

two Palestinians go dogging is filled with gut wrenching scenes which stick with you long after the cast have taken their bows. There’s the scene where Sara (Mai Weisz), an Israeli solider begs for her life before being murdered. There’s also a scene where Reem and her husband Sayeed (Miltos Yerolemou) are sat side by side, him eating an orange – her sifting lentils and they have a conversation of “Do you ever imagine living somewhere else? And not having to watch people die”.

But the standout scene for me was from Reem. As she is sent a video of her son Jawad being murdered. Reem watches the video on her phone, and all of the lights in the auditorium are turned off, with the only light coming from the phone screen, illuminating Reem’s face. The scene has the audience on the edge of their seat and brought tears to my eyes as I saw the emotional response of Reem, with tears running down her face as she watched her son being murdered.

There was no real conclusion to the play. Reem reads out a letter from Ibrahim, the play’s writer, that explains he’s not sure how to end her story. This was purposeful as it represented the fact that Palestinians do not know what will happen day to day, that is the reality of living in a conflict zone. With such a complicated history, who knows what will happen by 2043?

The play asks many important questions. Questions we rarely think about, as it’s easy to turn your mind off to what’s going on, when you’re not living within it. Questions about the uneven death toll and on whose daughter matters more. This is thought provoking for the audience, and makes you question how so much of the world can ignore what’s going on elsewhere.

© Ali Wright

Although the topic of the play is heavy and intense, there are still more light hearted moments. Yes dogging is included. The Palestinians meet on contested land, because they are ‘turned on’ by the risk. And an Israeli man even joins them later on!

Metatheatrical devices are used throughout the show, with the fourth wall being broken repeatedly. At one point the audience are even berated for our inability to speak Arabic, with Reem declaring the marketing department should be sacked.

I only have one gripe and that’s regarding the run time. Clocking in at nearly three hours and being quite and intensely emotional play throughout, it’s not a light hearted evening out at the theatre. But I also don’t know how you can reduce the run time of a play that tackles such a complex topic. There’s a lot to this story and everything feels necessary.

© Ali Wright

The entire cast provide exceptionally strong performances that evoke emotional responses in the audience. Emotional responses to the play were evident in the audience throughout. There were tears and laughter. I was fixated on Omran throughout her impassioned performance, I simply could not take my eyes off her.

“I believe my story matters – and you can’t forget a story that matters” – Reem says this at the end of the play, and it hits the nail on the head. You are reminded that this play isn’t fiction, there are real people in the world and this is their reality. This review has taken me a while to write, simply because this play really crawled under my skin and has been lodged ever since. It’s difficult to verbalise the impact of this play on me – to put it simply, go and see it, because it’s important that everyone should see this play!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Trigger warnings – contains references to, and depictions of, violence, war and death.

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