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July 31, 2006 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Death (and Love) in Gaza – Homage to a Young Activist

Written and Directed by Paul Maunder Bats 25 July – 5 August

Oscar Wilde once wrote: “No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.” What Wilde means is that art should be looked upon only as such, and that any philosophical or political message that the artist is advocating only serves to cloud the art. The converse side of this is that when one uses an artistic medium to convey a political message the art can weaken the political message. Death (and Love) in Gaza is a prime example of the first situation: its political message overwhelms its artistic credibility and it simply ceases to be artistic. Death (and Love) in Gaza is not a piece of theatre. It is an hour long political diatribe with actors.

Death (and Love) in Gaza is the story of Ruth (Elizabeth Marshall), a young American activist living in the Gaza strip protesting against the illegal and systematic destruction of Palestinian homes and farmland by the Israeli state. Her story is told by her companion and lover Gerd (Charlie Bleakley) and a stoic Palestinian woman (Katrina Baylis). The play begins with a clinical account of Ruth’s death and then jumps back to her arrival in Palestine and explains the events which lead to her inevitable death. The story is based around the story of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who was killed in 2003 and doubles as a call to arms for any other potential activists (we are even given flyers and encouraged to donate at the end).

Unfortunately, the delivery of Death (and Love) in Gaza is poor, which is predominantly due to both the shoddy script and ill-devised direction from Maunder. His characters are one-dimensional and clichéd. Ruth is bolshy, loud, coarse and stereotypically ‘American’. Likewise, her German companion is fastidious, rule obsessed and oh so ‘German’. Furthermore, I can only hear lines such as “Fuck George Bush” so many times before they become completely farcical (I had to be jabbed in the ribs by my companion a number of times to prevent myself laughing at the more serious moments of the play). Likewise, the portrayal of their romantic relationship was dismal. The actors did come into their own when delivering a lecture about the benefits of Internationalist Activism to the audience, a fraction of the way into the play. It was obvious that the two actors had passion for this particular cause and for a second their characters were believable.

While I would like to believe I have no ethical sympathies when it comes to art, I am not going to fool myself. I have immense sympathy for the Palestinian people and the injustices they continue to suffer. I also admire the courage of those willing put their lives on the line for what they believe is right, regardless of what they stand for and however ill-conceived their plans. Such sympathies however, cannot be held out through a poorly conceived and executed piece of art.


About the Author ()

HAILING FROM the upper-middle- class hell of Havelock North, Jules is in the final semester of a bachelor’s degree in Trenchermanship (majoring in Gourmandry), is a self-professed Anarcho-Dandy and resides in the Aro Valley. He likes to spend his days pursuing whimsical follies of every sort and his evenings gallivanting through the bars and restaurants of Wellington in search of the perfect wine list. He has unfailingly dedicated his life to the excessive consumption of food and drink (despite having no discernable way of paying for it), and expects to die of simultaneous heart and kidney failure at thirty-nine. His only hope is that very soon people will start to pay him for his opinions (of which he is endowed with aplenty). Jules has a penchant for vintage Oloroso.

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