Lisa Came, Sidney Kean, Daniel Rabin
Katie Posner and Marcus Romer
Featuring three short separate stories within its eighty-minute running time, Naomi Wallaces The Fever Chart considers the impact of various Middle East conflicts upon individuals’ lives.
The work started life in New York in 2008, before Pilot Theatre took it across the water to York, where it began a short tour of the UK that now concludes in the smaller of Londons Trafalgar Studios.
The first play, A State of Innocence, considers the Israeli zookeeper, Yuval, whose values are challenged when the Palestinian Um-Hisham appears and asks him why his platoon had to destroy Rafahs zoo and kill her defenceless child.
In the second, Between this Breath and You, the Israeli trainee nurse Tanya finally accepts that her new lungs came from a Palestinian, whilst the older Mourid finds comfort in the thought that his son lives on.
In both scenarios, the Israelis appear largely as the aggressors, and on numerous occasions it is revealed how they exert their power and sense of superiority. Tanya tells Mourid that she could get him locked up for a week for supposedly hassling her, and she in turn has never been told that her lungs came from a Palestinian. The plays are not, however, anti-Israeli because they explore the notion of loss on all sides, and show how ordinary people can get dragged into fighting. The architect Shlomo, who plans to make the zoo as secure as any other Jewish area, laments how his mind has become so twisted by events that he doesnt know what is and isnt true anymore.
Although the characters need to explain their respective backgrounds to the audience and each other (since they have typically never met before) such presentations never feel forced, and the interaction between the protagonists remains strong. The performances of Lisa Came, Sidney Kean and Daniel Rabin are powerful, but never melodramatic, and the application of a dream element to the plays enables certain gestures and emotions to ring true that might seem out of place in a more ultra-realist environment.
The final play, The Retreating World, examines Iraqs plight in the year 2000, following the economic sanctions imposed upon it after the first Gulf War. To the pigeon fancier Ali, birds are the most eloquent expression of reality, and as he addresses the International Pigeon Convention he describes his memories of the war, and the ways in which life has grown harder since. With 5,000 children and 5,000 pigeons dying each year as a result of the blockades, and Ali having sold his pigeons in order to survive, it reveals how even at the start of millennium it felt to many Iraqis as if the countrys best days were already behind it.
This provides a potent ending to the evening, and as Ali scatters the dead pigeons feathers it reminds us that, although these plays may ultimately be about hope, great mountains remain to be climbed before the Middle East might ever become a secure, prosperous and, above all, peaceful region.