VIA DOLOROSA
Duchess Theatre, London WC2
Opened 18 July, 2002

*** David Hare's "what I did on my holidays" monologue returns

Hare's solo piece about his 1997 trip to Israel and Palestine is deceptively powerful as theatre; he's just not a very good performer.

Hare's 90-minute monologue about his travels and conversations in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank seems at first like a brilliant essay that has no business being on the stage. Gradually, though, you realise that the live element gives it an important weight. What Hare is doing, like the apostles of all those religions born in this region, is bearing personal witness to what he has experienced and to its effects upon him.

The trouble is that, also like some prophets, Hare has to rely on his material for power because he isn't a magnetic performer. He stands bolt upright, almost as if suspended by the shoulders, occasionally making a stilted two-handed gesture. When he is confident enough to emphasise a phrase or notion dramatically, he does it by extreme vocal affectation, delivering. Every. Word. Separately. ...and what irony, for this most Labour of playwrights! even resorting to "the Thatcher whisper".

Events have moved on, too; the once-unnamed "former military commander" is now identified, because he is Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The play's content can inform our understanding of the Middle East situation, but in some ways it is already history.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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