Straits Times Review: Australian play about Gaza a ‘memorable production’

A story of love and two countries

BY SUBHADRA DEVAN – 22 JANUARY 2017 @ 3:27 PM

It’s the poetry in the language of Tales of A City By The Sea that ensnares your imagination as the play unfolds its bittersweet love story, writes Subhadra Devan WITH a cadence that ebbs like the whoosh of the sea, we hear but don’t see the linear narrative of a girl in love with a boy across the oceans. But it captures the mind, and engages the emotions. It feels like an honest telling by a Palestinian-Australian-Canadian playwright Samah Sabawi, of what it means to live in a besieged city, in this case Palestine.

On the small stage at Theatre KuAsh, Pusat Kreatif Kanak Kanak Tuanku Bainun in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL, we hear Jomana (played by Helana Sawires), who lives in Palestine, speak of her life and love for family and country. The budding poet has fallen for a Palestinian-American doctor, Rami (Osamah Sami) , who had used the “Free Gaza” boats way back in August 2008 to help his ancestral country.

Jomana is playing chaperone to her cousin Lama (Raja Emina Ashman), who is being courted by Ali (Reece Vella). As they wait for Ali, Jomana lashes out at the young and privileged on the Free Gaza boats whom, she claims, is treating their protest against the occupation as the in-thing to do. We hear how Jomana’s family members are on the other side of the wall, and she and her father hasn’t seen them for decades. As her love for Rami grows, soon enough he has to return home but he promises to come back to her. He uses an “underground tunnel” that connects Gaza to Egypt, with the help of Ali.

The war-torn lovers Skype amid bombings and gunfire; but Lama’s family perishes, and she swears to go on living. There is a wedding scene that livens up the 200-odd audience to no end, in this play that spans a year of Jomana’s life. Throughout the 90-minute play, an ethereal “Spirit of Gaza” (played by Tria Aziz) wanders in and out, singing Arabic songs that tug at the heart with its notes of longing and sadness. There are no surtitles to help in direct translation of the songs, which is a shame, for here is a moving story with layers of discourse.

On the surface, this is a love story, then of a country with a heartsick diaspora abroad. It is also about survival. Malaysians generally have little experience of war, bombings of cities, or even refugees for that matter. One does not meet the refugee diaspora unless as part of work or if one were to go out of the way to do so, perhaps with an non-governmental organisation. As for the Palestinian crisis, what does the average Malaysian know of it? So, Tales Of A City By The Sea is fascinating for its glimpse of what it means for a people to be in a war, and a refugee of a war-torn place. The humanity portrayed is inspiring, yet heartrending. These are a brave people, you feel.

MEMORABLE PRODUCTION

This production is aided by a simple set of a stage, with white and red sheets hung on cable wires, which prove effective in the changing of scenes. One memorable moment is when Rami’s mum and Jomana’s dad are discussing their children’s love, in their respective countries, with their offsprings, on the same stage, separated only by a twist of a cloth on the table. The cast also did not disappear from the stage after their scenes. Instead, they sit next to it, albeit in darkness. There were occasions when that kind of an exit did not work because the scene was too emotional. For instance, Lama learns she has lost her family and weeps in Ali’s arms. The scene ends, and she exits the stage to sit at the sidelines. You too need to collect your own rollercoasting emotions, with the abrupt reminder that it’s just a play.

The award-winning play from Australia carries well due in no small part to the cast, some of whom enjoy multiple roles. On a jarring note, as most of them had distinctive Australian accents, except for Raja Emina, one wonders if it was necessary for Rami to take on a southern American one for the play. It is, after all, imaginative in production, and the accent did drop off on some instances. That said, Sawires as Jomana is an emotive actor, commanding the stage whenever she appears despite her slight frame. While Raja Emina brought forth the vivaciousness of Lama, I found Vella the most memorable actor. He brought charisma to his role of Ali, the man who can find ways to survive and be happy. His cajoling of Lama is simply winsome, while the happiness at the wedding, plainly believable. The realistic sound effects lent dramatic nuance to an already deeply-moving tale, which had no happily-ever-after ending. We are instead confronted by Rami being questioned for entering Gaza illegally, although he cries that it has something to do with his “brown skin”, and Jomana is left wondering about his release, if ever. With that, the audience is left to ponder about freedom and justice, and its modern concepts. It makes you ask yourself, what you would do in such situations. Such conversations that prompt thought are always good artistic ventures, and in this case, theatre.

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2017/01/206306/story-love-and-two-countries

Award winning author & actor Osamah Sami speaks about his role in Tales of a city by the Sea, Gaza, the siege, the controversy and more…

Interview with Iranian/Australian Writer & Actor Osamah Sami by Kyriaki Maragozidis. Originally broadcast 13/6/16 Live to Air on Voiceprint Arts, Three D Radio 93.7fm in South Australia.

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To purchase tickets for Sydney show on August 3rd click here. 

 

In Daily Review: Fine theatre well worth watching!

“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.”

Stephen Davenport

In Daily – Adelaide’s independent news

This is wide-eyed saga of everyday Palestinians struggling to survive and find normality, hope and love in a region affected by hostility. It is an oddly poetic tale, whose complexity and subtleties of differing narrative viewpoint are maintained by axioms, a strong multi-cultural ensemble and superb lead performances.

Samah Sabawi’s script has received widespread acclaim for its insight into Palestinian life. The playwright’s remarkable sensitivity and artistry confers enormous authority on this portrayal of a beleaguered people.

The play focuses on Jomana (Helena Sawires), a Palestinian woman living in a refugee camp, and depicts life under the Israeli bombardment and siege. She is chaperone to her cousin Lama (Emina Ashman), who is unhappily engaged to Ali (Reece Vella).

When Rami (Osamah Sami), an American-born Palestinian doctor, arrives on the “Free Gaza” boats in August 2008, he and Jomana fall in love. When it is time to leave, Rami promises to sell his clinic in America and return to Jomana and his ancestral homeland.

The play gives us a prophetic flavour of the way people can culturally, politically, ideologically and physically be separated. There are sharp, pertinent scenes in which the lovers speak over Skype and renew their promises. But will the pair live happily ever after?

This play stands or falls by its love affair between the thoroughly decent Texan doctor, Rami, and the poetically romantic Jomana. And this love affair has all the passion of desperate people in desperate times and precarious situations. Sawires is well cast; she puts presence into every scene and bounces well off Sami, who brilliantly portrays an American caught between multiple loyalties. Read more…

 

 

Weekend Note Review: a poetic story of resilience

by Julia Wakefield

Following its sold out premiere Melbourne season in 2014, Tales of a City by the Sea opened at The Bakehouse Theatre this week. The author is Palestinian/Australian/Canadian writer Samah Sabawi. She describes her work as ‘a poetic journey into the ordinary lives of people living in abnormal circumstances and their struggle to survive’.

The play grew out of a collection of poetry that Sabawi wrote while she was in Gaza during the three week bombardment of 2008/2009, prompted by her own experiences and those of her friends and family. She says she is not trying to put across a political message. Although this is a story based on real life events that took place during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008, its main purpose is to highlight the resilience and compassion that people display in such dire circumstances. In this current era of global conflict and confusion, there are many places featured in news bulletins that are enduring similar situations. Sabawi wants us to see ‘the detail of daily lives of people they see for brief seconds on the news’.

The play was originally directed by Lech Mackiewicz, and the current director is Wahibe Moussa. When it opened in Melbourne the plan was to have two simultaneous performances on the West Bank and in Gaza. The play was performed on the West Bank a week later; the script has been read in Gaza but as yet there has been no opportunity to perform the play there.

In the main characters of the play, Jomana and Rami, we see another theme: the gulf between the Palestinian diaspora (those whose families escaped from Gaza and who have grown up in an affluent, privileged society), and the same generation who remain trapped in Gaza. Jomana lives in Gaza, Rami is a doctor raised in Texas by refugee Palestinian parents. They are in love, but in order to enter each other’s world they have no choice but to abandon their families and the reality they grew up in.

The play ideally suits the intimate atmosphere of the Bakehouse Theatre. Scenes are evoked with the simplest of props, and Sabawi’s poetry slips seamlessly into the characters’ dialogue, serving to highlight emotional moments. In some places it appears as a passionate soliloquy, as in Rami’s heart rending speech “what price a life?” But it is also there in the play’s frequent humorous moments, such as the Dr Zeuss style banter that Rami exchanges with his mother. This reference to a familiar Western poetic style serves to emphasize the gap between Rami’s and Jomana’s upbringing. We realise that Rami, in spite of his heritage, has more experience in common with the audience than he has with Jomana. The contrast is cleverly portrayed in a particularly riveting scene where Jomana is conversing with her father in Gaza, while Rami is simultaneously speaking to his mother in Texas, on either side of a dining table.. Read more

Interview with Samah Sabawi “This Palestinian did not stand alone”

Samah Sabawi talks to Radio Adelaide about the play, the controversy, the overwhelming support and on being a Palestinian Australian writer.

 

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The Barefoot Review: a poetically beautiful discerning and honest examination of life in Gaza

David O’Brien

The Barefoot Review

Where there is a wall, there is also a city its inhabitants call home in the sacred and emotional way expected of communities deeply attached to their history and culture; especially those coping with just over half a century of war in all its guises and forms, greater or lesser, challenging their right to exist.

Samah Sabawi’s Tales of a City by The Sea is poetically beautiful, discerning and honest in its examination of life in Gaza.

No angry, politicised, locked in sensationalism to be found here, despite what has been said of this work during 2016. Sabawi’s play is an astutely balanced, modern appraisal of what it means to live as a Palestinian under siege.  Read more…

Adelaide Theatre Guide Review: A gripping piece of theatre that begs to be seen and heard

Tony Busch

Adelaide Theatre Guide

June 11, 2016

This is a tale of conflict and survival told principally through the stories of two couples during the 2008 Gaza war.

Jomana (Helen Sawires) is a Palestinian journalist in Gaza who meets American born Palestinian doctor, Rami, (Osamah Sami) who arrives on board one of small boats that breaks the Israeli blockade.

Ali (Reece Vella) and Lama (Emina Ashman) are residents of Gaza. He loves her but she’s unsure whether to marry him or not.

The play traces the development of these two relationships amid the death and destruction that is everyday life in Gaza.

Samah Sabawi has created a potent narrative that brims with raw examples of the reality of living under a hostile authority. She explores relationships and family values in a place where people fight to retain some sense of normality amid the daily death toll; where “funerals and weddings have become part of daily life”.   Read more 

 

Interview Samah Sabawi on Radio Adelaide

Samah Sabawi, writer of Tales of a City by the Sea, has written a play that delves into the lives of people in Gaza.  The production was assembled by a very culturally diverse team which focuses on the challenges of life and confronting barriers.

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“Theatre needs to make you think. It should not brainwash you… if it makes you uncomfortable then that’s good, that’s really good theatre,” she said.

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Tales of a City by the Sea will be at the Bakehouse Theatre from the 8th till the 18th of June.

To book tickets, head to www.bakehousetheatre.com

Image sourced by: The Bakehouse Theatre

Opinion: Vision of everyday life in Palestine too bleak for some

The Age June 2, 2016
Samah Sabawi

“Our story resonates with refugees, ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and immigrants, who after each performance feel the need to thank us for finally reflecting their lives on stage, telling stories of how humanity can survive in times of adversity and war and producing theatre that matters to them. The voiceless. The marginalised.”

 

My play Tales of a City by the Sea sold out its 2014 and 2016 seasons to standing ovations by many, including people from a Jewish background. Despite this overwhelming support, a small yet vocal group hit the panic button when the play was selected for the VCE drama curriculum.

It seems that I, the writer, missed the memo that I can’t write an artistic piece about Palestinian life without inserting Israel’s point of view into my art. This is wrong on so many levels.

Most alarming was the false accusation by the B’nai B’rith organisation that the play “peddles classic anti-semitic themes” (ABC radio, May 27). For the record, the play does not mention Jews, Judaism, the Jewish people or have any Jewish characters. This false allegation insults me as the author of this play as well as others including the cast and crew, La Mama theatre, the VCAA, the Australian Jewish Democratic Society as well as any one else who supported, attended, applauded and worked on this production.

I believe B’nai B’rith must apologise unequivocally to all of us. Anti-Semitism must always be taken seriously. False claims of anti-Semitism used to drive political agendas only trivialise and undermine our fight and resolve to eradicate it and other forms of racism.

Some criticised the play for not including Israeli voices. The reality is the only times Israeli voices are heard in Gaza is when an Israeli soldier phones a Palestinian family and orders them to leave their house before it is bombed, over a megaphone if a Palestinian boat gets too close to the forbidden line in the sea, or when a Palestinian walks too close to the fence that surrounds Gaza and Israeli soldiers shout at them from the surveillance towers to turn back.

The sad reality is that there are no human interactions between Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis outside of this paradigm. Palestinians know the Israelis are there all the time, surveying them with drones in the sky, cameras on the walls and towers and naval gunships at sea. Had Israeli voices been included, this would have been the realistic depiction as experienced by Gazans. But they were not included because all of this was irrelevant to the play.

What the critics don’t seem to grasp is this play is not about the Palestine/Israel conflict. Ordinary Palestinian life in Gaza does not revolve around political discussion. It is consumed with the daily battle for survival.

The two Palestinians falling in love in this play argue over where to live, what choices to make and the cultural differences between those who have left and those who have remained. The husband and wife in this play argue over how to make the water, a precious and increasingly scarce resource in Gaza, last longer.

Inserting a conversation about Hamas rockets and the Israeli army’s point of view would have seemed unnatural and out of place in the context of daily lives. The play touches only briefly on politics to the extent that it mixes with daily life, for example when characters complain about Hamas’ restrictions on civil liberties or when a fisherman recalls his encounter with Israeli naval ships at sea.

I spent the last two years researching with my Jewish Canadian co-editor Stephen Orlov the subject of Jewish and Palestinian plays as we gathered material for our soon-to-be-published anthology Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish Palestinian Diasporas (Canada Playwrights Press). The more we researched the more we noted the scarcity of Palestinian plays actually produced in western theatres. Here in Australia, I can’t think of a staged play that had one Palestinian character or was written by a Palestinian.

It is perhaps for this reason, and for the fact that culturally diverse groups in general are under-represented on the mainstream stage, that Tales of a City by the Sea is received with such enthusiasm. Our audience is as diverse as our cast. Our story resonates with refugees, ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and immigrants, who after each performance feel the need to thank us for finally reflecting their lives on stage, telling stories of how humanity can survive in times of adversity and war and producing theatre that matters to them. The voiceless. The marginalised.

Tales of a City by the Sea is a quintessential human story of survival and hope, and its events could have taken place anywhere there is war, bombardment and siege. But because it is set in Gaza and told by Palestinians, the play triggered this hyperbole of fear-mongering and racist reactions from those who refuse to see Palestinians as human beings. The problem with this play is not that it may dehumanise Israelis – it does not. The problem is it humanises the Palestinians. Apparently, for some, this is too much to handle.

Samah Sabawi is a Melbourne-based commentator, poet, author and playwright.

This oped was first published in The Age on June 2, 2016.  Original article at this link http://www.theage.com.au/comment/vision-of-everyday-life-in-palestine-too-bleak-for-some-20160602-gp9tmc.html#ixzz4AYRFxmci

 

Stage Whispers Review: This is a work that all creative artists, cast and La Mama should feel great pride in bringing to a Melbourne audience

By Suzanne Sandow

An excellent ensemble of multicultural performers work closely collectively to draw together and express the story of star crossed lovers who are both, perhaps a little surprisingly, Palestinian.

He is a doctor who runs a medical clinic in the USA and she a journalist who was born and raised in the Shanti (beach) Refugee Camp in Gaza. He comes and goes into this volatile site of the bitter struggle of the siege of Gaza that took place in 2008. They are just like young lovers from anywhere and any culture.

It is not a story of conflict, of brutal ingrained enmity between Israeli and Palestinian but a story of romantic love with a backdrop of engrained enmity that’s conflict extends into every nook and cranny of life.

This poetic production is framed with the glorious haunting Arabic songs sung by Aseel Tayah who is dressed in traditional costume. And staged on a set (Lara Week) of curtains (apparently made of sheets) that allow for a flow of expressive imagery and the creation of potentially unlimited environments. The sea is a very strong motif as emphasized through sound as designed by Khaled Sabsabi.

As a piece of theatre it has an engaging and engrossing through its linear narrative and all performances honor the writing that is glistening poetry at times.

Generous nurturing direction by debuting director Wahibe Moussa, with an emphasis on emotional sincerity that is at times frustratingly static, supports the poetic nature of Samah Sabawi’s writing and endorses clarity. Perhaps with some more time, inventive and adventurous, risks in staging could have been played with and incorporated.

This is a work that all creative artists, cast and La Mama should feel great pride in bringing to a Melbourne audience.

http://www.stagewhispers.com.au/reviews/tales-city-sea

 

Taag Review: This work is ‘invaluable, deserving perhaps more than other works currently being staged in Melbourne’

It’s the quality of story presented here, or perhaps the resonance it holds that truly defines this performance. Set amidst the conflict in Gaza, a world that for many Australians would seem far away, but through focusing on the individual stories, it somehow brings these two counter realties within three degrees of separation, driving home a message of our universal need for love, safety and home. Read more

Sabawi and Moussa speak theatre and controversy on SmartArts 3RRR

“It is very rare that independent theatre is talked about in the Victorian Parliament”

SBS: Palestinian play to remain on school curriculum

Calls for a controversial play depicting life in Gaza to be removed from the Victorian school curriculum have been rejected by the state government.

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Tales of a City by the Sea with Michael Cathcart on RN

In Samah Sabawi’s play, Tales of a City by the Sea, lovers struggle to stay together in war-torn Gaza.

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To buy tickets or purchase the script click here

إستمعو إلى مقطع من مسرحيه حكايات مدينة على البحر تليه مقابلة مع أسامة سامي وهيلانة ساويرس ابطال المسرحية

 

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حكايات غزة تقرر على الطلبة الاسترال في ولاية فيكتوريا

سماح السبعاوي تتحدث عن كيف تم إختيار مسرحية حكايات مدينة على البحر لمنهج الدراما و المسرح في فيكتوريا

DONATE لدعم العمل

مسرحيه حكايات مدينة على البحر لم يتم دعمها من أي جهة حكومية أو سياسيه و تعتمد كلياً على تبرعات الأفراد. يتم تخصيص كافة التبرعات لدفع نفقات العمل الفني والفنانين المشاركين فيه. الفريق المسرحي مكون من 16 فرداً وسيقومون بالبروفات لمدة 6 اسابيع تحضيراً ل 33 عرضاً في ثلاثة مدن. وسيتم عرض المسرحية لما يزيد على 500 طالب من 25 مدرسة ثانوية في ولاية فيكتوريا.

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The Music Review: Tales of a City by the Sea is ‘a fantastically told story’

By Mary Hughes

4-star-review

At the centre of this devastating love story is the Israel-Palestine conflict and the affect it has on daily life. Palestinian-Canadian-Australian playwright Samah Sabawi has set the work in an inhospitable land where bombs are ceaselessly dropped on the houses of innocent people, making it a nearly-impossible place for young love to flourish. Rami, a brave but foolish American-born Palestinian doctor arrives illegally in a refugee camp on a Free Gaza boat and falls in love with Jomana, a Palestinian woman. She sees through his cocky façade to his kind heart, but will only commit to spending her life with him if he agrees to stay in Palestine. Though obviously tempted, Rami, raised comfortably in Texas, is unsure if he can see himself raising a family in the same world where he sees children injured by bombs in hospital every day. This is a fantastically told story of two worlds colliding. Choosing to stay would mean leaving his family and career behind, while leaving would mean not only losing Jomana but also ignoring the plight of the Palestinians. An elegantly simple set designed by Lara Week is perfect for actors Nicole Chamoun and Osamah Sami to excel in their lead roles.

Original review is published here 

The Same Sea: Review

The Blog:  The Australian Jewish Democratic Society

By Ann Fink

Tales of a City by the Sea was a stunning theatrical experience. It is a many layered love story, set in the Gaza Strip. It is a unique play, written by Samah Sabawi, a Palestinian-Canadian-Australian writer, poet, playwright and political commentator; a wordsmith of great talent. It is a poetic and musical journey into the lives of ordinary people in the besieged Gaza strip prior to, during and after its bombardment in the winter of 2008-9.

Tales of a City by the Sea tells the story of Jumana, (Nicole Chamoun) a Palestinian woman, a journalist who lives in the Shati’ (beach) refugee camp in Gaza and Rami, an American born Palestinian doctor and activist who arrives on the first ‘Free Gaza’ boats in 2008. It is a story of impossible love, crossing cultural as well as national boundaries, intertwined with the parallel tale of Jumana’s cousin, Lama. (Emily Coupe)

Lama is the reluctant fiancé of an entrepreneurial local Gazan, (Reece Vella) a tunnel smuggler, a fixer, a man bereft of family, besotted with Lama, who, in turn longs for the “great romantic love” and constantly postpones any final commitment. Together Jumana and Lama look longingly out to sea, discussing the endless possibilities that lie beyond the horizon.
And then come the boats. Boats to break the blockade. And on one of those boats, in the finest romantic tradition, comes Rami, a wealthy Bostonian doctor, born in the USA to a family of Palestinian origins and a mother (Wahibe Moussa) with important connections. Wahibe Moussa is a star. As Rami’s mother, she is a force of nature. But even she cannot breach the blockade that isolates Gaza from the outside world.

Osemah Sami as Rami is suitably handsome, blissfully blind to the mores of traditional and Hamas enforced Muslim Gaza. And he wears socks with his sandals. Oi vey! Osemah Sami is simply superb as Rami.

Jumana is the adored and adoring daughter, of a not so simple fisherman (Majid Shokor) and his wife, (Cara Whitehouse) a woman who alone could terrify the IDF (according to her husband). Other children have married and live outside Gaza on the West Bank. Relationships with grandchildren can only be conducted by Skype. Cara Whitehouse and Majid Shokor play Jumana’s parents to great effect, bringing alive the pain of exile and separation from extended family, especially grandchildren
Jumana’s laptop plays a very significant and at moments, erotic role in this tragic romance.

And then there is the voice and the music. Hauntingly beautiful, exquisitely sung, the music and the poetry add another level to the writing and serve to deepen the impact of this powerful story of imprisonment, separation and finally bombardment. Assel Tayah has the voice of an angel. I have never heard any music like this. Not quite the Arab music one hears on Israeli radio. Definitely Middle Eastern in origin, but different. The program notes that the sound design is by Khaled Sabsabi and the sound mix is by Max Scholler –Root.

As this lovingly wrought, gentle tale continues, with the sea always in the foreground, the inevitable scenario turns dark. Rami returns to the USA ostensibly to close his clinic and prepare for life in Gaza. In reality, he dreams of freeing Jumana from her prison, to deliver her to a life of luxury and liberty in the USA. She has sworn never to leave her family or her country.
On December 27th 2008, Operation Caste Lead begins and the bombardment destroys Jumana’s home, kills all of Lama’s large family and brings back Rami, smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels. He works day and night as a doctor to save lives and comes at last to grips with the Gazan reality.

One month later, in the shadow of the ruins of her dreams, Lama agrees to marry her long suffering and patient fiancé. “He”, she explains to a skeptical Jumana, who is still in the throes of romantic love, “will always be a good provider. We will always have plenty to eat and he will give me a good life. Together we will build a new family.” They marry and within the year, Lama is pregnant.

Commentators often remark on the large numbers of children, educated women bear in Gaza. Samah Sabawi demonstrates exactly why this is so. As long as families are destroyed, there will always be a natural urge to rebuild them. Similar sentiments were expressed by many Holocaust survivors.

Meanwhile Rami tries to persuade Jumana that there is no future for them or their children in such a place. But she still refuses to leave. Love conquers all and again he returns to the USA to close his practice and prepare finally for a life in Gaza. On entering the US, he is arrested, charged with being a Hamas terrorist and we are left with Jumana, once again gazing out to the sea and the horizon beyond, imprisoned, but infinitely patient.

Tales from a City by the Sea is a universal story of love which crosses boundaries and checkpoints, cultures and nationalities; of grandmothers and grandfathers who will never be able to know their grandchildren, whose own children will become distant and alien. The tyranny of distance, which figures so large in the Australian experience, cannot be compared to the cruelty of the blockade of Gaza, which began in June 2007 and continues to this day, but it resonates with those who feel forever separated from their kin.

The performance, which I saw on the 23rd of November, the final afternoon of its far too short, sell out, season, at La Mama Theatre, in Melbourne, Australia, took place literally at the opposite end of the world from Gaza, a 36 hour direct flight distant. The production was an overwhelming achievement. All the components of good theatre, acting, casting, set design, dress and music all came together under the superb direction of Lech Machiewicz.

Having just flown in from Tel Aviv, the authenticity of the characters played by the actors was breathtaking. I could have sworn that Lama was the check out girl at our local supermarket and that Jumana was sitting at the table next to us at a wedding we attended in Jericho.

Nicole Chamoun, Jumana, is probably one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. Her acting ability matches her looks and she is already well on the way to a great career.

Emily Coupe as Lama, the chatterbox cousin, with her sexy tight jeans and hijab could be any Palestinian teenager shopping in Ramallah or on the streets of Jaffa, texting as she walks and gossips with her friends.

Lama’s fiancé, Reece Vella is uncanny in his portrayal of the non stop cigarette smoking fixer, tunnel smuggler, entrepreneur. Ubaldino Mantelli completes this multi ethnic cast, a testament to the rich diversity of Melbourne’s immigrant heritage.

The set is simple and effective. Sheets hung on receding lines to be drawn as needed. Domestic images of washing hung to dry on balconies and rooftops of apartment buildings lining the sea shore The same sea whose waves crash on the shores of Tartus in Syria, on Beirut in Lebanon, on ‘our’ beach, the Tzuk Beach in North Tel Aviv, Israel, and onto Jumana’s beach in Gaza. It is the same sea.

Post Script.
On November 22nd 2014, The Alrowwad Cultural and Theater Society performed a production of Tales of a City by the Sea in Bethlehem, Palestine. The production was directed by Dr.Abdelfattah Abusrour. Dr Abdelfattah Abusrour stressed the importance of this production, citing the lack of theatrical works that explore the Gaza case and Diaspora Palestinians. The play, he writes, demonstrates the role of theatre in supporting the Palestinian cultural values of beautiful resistance against the violence of occupation and its ugliness.

Original article appeared here http://www.ajds.org.au/justvoices4_fink/#sthash.I5RvUOeN.9YPrGDjd.dpuf

Theatre review: Tales of a City by the Sea captures drama of star-crossed lovers amid Gaza conflict

Reviewed by Rebecca Harkins-Cross

The Sydney Morning Herald

THEATRE
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.

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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.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/theatre-review-tales-of-a-city-by-the-sea-captures-drama-of-starcrossed-lovers-amid-gaza-conflict-20141113-11lmx3.html#ixzz3L5vK5tXa

City By The Sea – a poem by Stuart Rees inspired by the play Tales of a City by the Sea

I was compelled by Samah’s Tales of a City by the Sea – so beautifully acted, so stunningly presented – to scribble this poem as tribute and reminder of a piercing piece of history placed on stage. The tenacity and courage of the people of Gaza stands in total contrast to the cruelties meted out by successive Israeli governments. Samah reminds us: the sea is the people’s salve, their loving a means of survival and a reminder to all who will ponder these ‘Tales’ to demand justice for all Palestinians.

City By The Sea

Transfusion beyond bombings

-whose noise as bombers dive,

to fulfil their bloody missions –

helps lovers stay alive,

tied up in their dilemmas

to flee, or risk and stay,

to kiss through every moment,

their adrenalin to say,

‘The ocean always tells us

of the salve that comes from thee,

tho’ waves may mutter only

the hope they give to me.

Life can remind of kindness

not death’s brutality,

lives may be lost in buildings,

yet generosity

still comes from endless motion,

-the sight, the sound, the sea –

which nurtures every struggle,

and is…..

life’s only certainty.’

Stuart Rees is Emeritus Professor, Australian academic and author. He is Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation and Emeritus Professor at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney in Australia.