Michael Billington
The Guardian (Theater Review)
March 4, 2013 - 1:00am

How do you tackle the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Most British dramatists, with the striking exception of David Hare in Via Dolorosa, shy away from it. But Canadian playwright Arthur Milner has had the bold idea of confronting some of the key issues in the form of a 90-minute police procedural; and, even if it can't cover the whole territory, the result is undeniably tense.

Yossi, an Israeli policeman, and Khalid, his Palestinian counterpart, are brought together to try and solve the murder of an American archaeologist in the West Bank. Given that the murder victim was disputing the authenticity of the Old Testament and claiming there was no proof that the Israelis were ever in Egypt or that King David existed, it is not hard to deduce that he may have been killed by a devout Zionist; and one comes conveniently to hand in the shape of the hardline Danny who was in the Hebron district at the time of the murder. But can one, as Yossi believes, trust in one's instincts to secure an indictment or does one, as Khalid claims, need absolute proof?

If one point emerges from Milner's play, it is that the gulf that separates secular and religious Israelis is often as great as that which divides Israelis and Palestinians. But, much as I admire Milner's honesty in demonstrating this, it also unbalances the play: the sheer intensity of the hatred the liberal Yossi feels for the fundamentalist Danny not only makes you question his credentials as a police officer, but also tends to obscure the fact that the real victims of the West Bank conflict are the 2.6 million Palestinian Arabs who live there. Even that fine actor Michael Feast succumbs to the overheated writing by playing Yossi as a bit of a headbanger who is prepared to hector and bully to secure a conviction. Caitlin McLeod's production is at its best when it cools the temperature: Paul Rattray rightly plays the extremist Danny, who believes that any Israeli prepared to sacrifice land for peace is a traitor, with a settled conviction, and Philip Arditti as Khalid, used to the daily indignities of checkpoints even as a policeman, is a model of quiet dignity, proving that restraint, in theatre as in life, is often the most potent weapon.


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