Reviewed by Rebecca Harkins-Cross
The Sydney Morning Herald
TALES OF A CITY BY THE SEA ★★★Samah Sabawi
La Mama Courthouse, until November 23
Star-crossed lovers Jomana (Nicole Chamoun) and Rami (Osamah Sami) face a hopeless impasse. The Palestinian cause brings together the Gazan journalist and the American-born Palestinian doctor, but is also what threatens to keep them apart.
Like recent Palestinian film Omar (2013), many artists are exploring the current state of the conflict through the frame of divided young love. This is a generation who’ve grown up under various states of occupation, with internet access allowing them to interact with the world beyond their borders.
Some of playwright Samah Sabawi’s poetry is heavy-handed, but there are raw emotions propelling the drama. Director Lech Mackiewicz extracts moving performances from a large cast, with singer Aseel Tayah’s wistful dirge echoing throughout.
Sabawi’s nuanced exploration of the myriad ways the occupation affects Palestinians at home and abroad could only be drawn from first-hand experiences. Those who’ve managed to escape find themselves suspended between two worlds, while for those who stay their roots are one of the only things they have left.
Set during the 2008 Gaza war, the play speaks to this year’s hostilities just as strongly. Sabawi’s focus extends beyond the political to people battling for normalcy – and managing to find humour – when the future is so uncertain. Funerals and marriages become a part of daily life.
Jomana finds solace from documenting the bloodshed.
“One more dead baby and the world will rise,” she prays.
Despite its flaws, this gripping play is an act of resistance that implores its audience to take heed.