Arts Review: BERLIN/WALL

Posted: October 29, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

Directed by Matthew Wild.  Written by Sir David Hare. With John Maytham.  At The Theatre on the Bay until 30 October until 30 October at 8.00pm.  ASTRID STARK reviews 

Printed in the Cape Times 28 October, 2010

The fascination with one wall that has been torn down, and another that is being built, became the inspiration for Sir David Hare’s two monologues BERLIN/WALL masterfully presented by John Maytham.

BERLIN is a collection of Hare’s musings on Berlin, a city that is now without its major landmark, and in WALL he speculates on the logic, or lack thereof, behind the creation of the wall between Israel and Gaza.  

Hare who wrote The Hours and The Reader stayed in Berlin while he was working on the latter film.  During his stay he restlessly wandered through the streets, park and pubs searching for what he considered the city’s elusive nature. From Hare’s viewpoint, Berlin at one time a city of bandits, punks, poets, anarchists and pornographers, had become diluted under the strain of its own progress.  The city which used to be a lively battleground of art and politics had become, according to Hare, the city of the ‘provisional’. It has swapped its feather boas and garter belts for a more conventional outfit. On the one hand, Hare’s BERLIN is a wistful, poetic lament for an era gone by, and on the other it is a celebration of the tenacious nature of the modern city and its inhabitants.  The monologue is a charming and very engaging fusion of journalism, history, personal memoirs, and philosophical musings, dappled with just enough humour to keep the piece from becoming too dark and strained. 

John Maytham, an accomplished journalist and radio presenter, delivers the piece with eloquence and respect for it s text and its protagonists.  Maytham is a confident and fascinating raconteur that oozes confidence without allowing arrogance to spoil the context and charm of the work he is delivering.  It is an added bonus that his well-trained voice is beautiful and a joy to listen to. 

The second monologue, WALL, is somewhat less poetic and wistful, as it speaks of a barrier being erected between two warring nations.   The separation wall, or barrier, being constructed by Israel is a network of fences, trenches and concrete walls built mostly in the West Bank.  It will be over 700 kilometers long when completed and will include roads for patrol vehicles, electronic ground/fence sensors, thermal imaging and video cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), sniper towers, and razor wire.

Hare’s monologue engages in the pros and cons of this structure being created, and especially its relation, or comparison to the Berlin wall.  The wall will be four times as long as the Berlin wall upon its completion. It is said that the suicide bombings have radically decreased since the erection of the wall.  However, opponents of the wall says it is an attempt to annex Palestinian land and that it is restricting Palestinians freedom of movement and access to work in Israel. In short, it is seen as a land grab.  Hare says that he wanted to write about Israel, ‘not because I understand it, but because I recognise it. Nobody understands the Middle East’.

Hare’s text describes a journey into Gaza and the meeting of some of its people.  John Maytham’s soothing and enigmatic voice transports us straight into the blazing heat of the mid-day sun along a dusty border.  We can almost taste the sand on our tongues and feel the fear and heat unite in a sticky paste on our brows.   He talks of sitting down for a meal in a little cafe and the only gleaming picture on the wall is one of Saddam Hussain. He laments, ‘Do people put posters of Saddam up because of the wall, or did they raise the wall because of Saddam’s posters?   Is it so that my enemy’s enemy is my friend?’

It all sounds so surreal and it hard to believe that the monologue is not a mere figment of Hare’s fertile imagination, but rather a mixture of historical facts and a personal reflection and philosophy of current events.  As Hare says, ‘Our children will judge us harshly’.

Tickets range from R75 to R125 per person.  Book for both the theatre and the dinner through the theatre’s Box Office on 021 438 3300 or through the Computicket Call Centre on 083 915 8000 or visit http://www.computicket.com.

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