TALES OF A CITY BY THE SEA is a multiple award-winning play by Samah Sabawi about life and love in the besieged Gaza strip. It premiered simultaneously in 2014 in English at Melbourne’s La Mama theatre (directed by Lech Mackiewicz) and in Arabic at Palestine’s Al Rowwad (directed by Abdelfattah Abusrour). Its sold out premiere was met with nightly standing ovations and critical acclaim. In 2016 the play was remounted and it was listed on the Victorian school curriculum as part of the Victorian Certificate of Education Drama Playlist, triggering a hyperbolic attack by the pro-Israel lobby groups to have the play removed. The attack was vicious, with B’nai B’rith’s Dvir Abramovich accusing the playwright of anti-semitic depictions – a false claim that was easily refuted. Fortunately, support for the play was overwhelming as theatre makers, teachers, writers, journalists and so many others stood up in support of freedom of art and expression and the right of Palestinian voices to be heard without the heavy handed intimidation of the Israeli lobby groups. As a result, the play was remounted in Melbourne for a longer also sold-out season at La Mama, before it embarked on its first national tour; playing to full houses and standing ovations in Adelaide’s Bakehouse Theatre and Sydney’s Casula Arts Centre. In 2017, Tales of a City by the Sea sold out an entire season in Kuala Lumpur’s Pusat Kreatif Kanak-kanak Tuanku Bainun. The play won two Drama Victoria awards for best new Australian publication for VCE And best performance by a theatre company for VCE and was nominated for best Independent Production by the prestigious Green Room Awards. In 2019, Tales of a City by the Sea had its first Canadian production at the Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies at University of Toronto. The play had its Canadian premiere in December of 2019 at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto.
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“This gripping play is an act of resistance that implores its audience to take heed.” The Age
“Searing stuff…Samah Sabawi’s play Tales of a City by the Sea is a brave work…. not only reflecting but also possibly affecting our view of this seemingly intractable conflict…The drama is played out well, and in the lead roles Osamah Sami (Rami) and Helana Sawires (Jomana) ..are both clearly deeply invested in the work.”
Peter Burdon – The Advertiser
“Sabawi has created an enthralling landscape and peopled it with believable characters. It looks beyond the political to examine the effect of war on those who cannot leave the battleground. It’s a gripping piece of theatre that begs to be seen and heard. “
Tony Busch – Adelaide Theatre Guide
“The profound grace of this production lies in the honest and forthright manner of Sabawi’s writing…. Added to that is Lara Week’s very simple and beautifully utilised set…alongside Shane Grant’s simple, polished lighting design and Khaled Sabsabi’s superbly crafted realist sound design. Sabawi’s play is an astutely balanced, modern appraisal of what it means to live as a Palestinian under siege.”
David O’Brien – Barefoot Review
“Samah Sabawi’s script is an eye-opening look at the daily drama of life and love in a war Zone where random missiles end lives. With music, poetry, harsh reality and hope, the excellent ensemble presents the Palestinian perspective and shows that life does, and must, go on.” 4 STARS
– Matt Byrne – Sunday Mail
“Tales of a City by the Sea is a perceptive story that magnificently captures the drama of star-crossed lovers in the besieged Gaza strip…. a strong multi-cultural ensemble and superb lead performances…. fine theatre well worth watching.”
Stephen Davenport – Indaily
“Despite the pain and despair that is palpably conveyed by this story, the bravery and humour of these ordinary people carries an overriding message of hope that reassures us of one thing – the resilience of the human spirit….the play is now on the Victorian Certificate of Education syllabus.”
Julia Wakefield – Weekend Notes
Tales of a City by the Sea is the story of two people who meet and fall in love in the besieged Gaza strip, woven together from the actual experiences of people living under occupation.
Jomana, a Palestinian woman living in a Gaza refugee camp, falls in love with Rami, an American-born Palestinian doctor and activist who has just arrived on one of the first Free Gaza boats in 2008. Their love is met with relentless string of challenges. Ultimately, Rami must decide between returning to his comfortable life in Texas and staying in Palestine with Jomana. Choosing to stay means leaving his family and career behind for a life ravaged by war, while leaving means not only losing Jomana but also ignoring the plight of the Palestinians.
Samah, I loved the play – saw it at Casula Powerhouse in August. I live in regional Nthn NSW. We have an active group here called Rural Australians for Refugees – and we are wondering if you have ever recorded any of your performances – we would love to purchase a copy and show it locally. Funds raised could go back to you to help you continue your work.
Thank you so much for your message and your support. Please send me an email to email@example.com and I’d love to discuss this further.
Hi seemed I just missed the Melbourne production, but so looking forward to it, if I can support the cause by composing some music for you please feel to contact me.
Here are 2 pieces I wrote specifically focused on Gaza
Available to support. John
where can I buy tickets for the play in Adelaide/Australia ?
You can get tickets at this link. http://www.bakehousetheatre.com/shows/tales-city-sea
Looking forward to seeing you at the show.
What a wonderful production and cast. I was captivated for the duration of the play and was in awe of the resilience of the Palestinian people. They have been through so much and yet somehow still have smiles on their faces. Tales of a City by the Sea touched me in so many ways. Brilliant, thank you for sharing your story Samah.
I was lucky to see this play last Friday night.Samah’s play is a window through which you can view the lives of the Palestinian people.Their deeply forlorn situation and the way in which even young lovers are compromised. Hope this play will be internationally successful.Not only because Samah Sabawi is great,but because more people need to understand the brave people of Gaza.
A moving, passionate story on the ongoing suffering of Palestinians. Beautifully portrayed and brought to life on the simplest but most effective of stages by a fiery cast. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. It will also give you hope, and more importantly it will teach you one of the enduring Palestinain traits; steadfastness.
For the cast of “Tales of a City by the Sea,” at La Mama in Melbourne. You created on a minimal stage the hugeness of history, in your bodies, in your cadences, in the touch of your hands, and the beauty of your songs. Hugeness of injustice and of hope. We were privileged to be in your presence. To listen to your discussion after the performance, all of you sitting on the edge of that small stage, with the sheet curtains behind you, speaking of your own histories, of connections old and new, of what it meant to speak Samah Sabawi’s words, to hold in your bodies the dislocations and impossibilities that Gaza has endured–your own journeys, both of performance and of insight, offered us. I write as a 74 New York- born Jew, who will never stop protesting Israel’s brutality. Joan Nestle
Somah so sad yet hopeful and beautiful to hear your personal portrayal on whats happening in Gaza.
I’m referring to your radio interview on BayFm 99.9 (byron bay) radio yesterday. Do you have a recording of that interview? If so can you please upload it to your site ASAP so I can direct many friends to it.
Thanks for your message and your support. I assume you are referring to the Babel program. I have just posted a link for it under Art & Culture on this website. Thanks again!
Please sent news of your vidoe but it was not attached. How can I accesss it.
Thank youfor all your efforts Christine
Which video are you referring to?