Pros: Fast-paced, rowdy and sexy political drag-comedy with a daring script. Flawlessly performed, addictive dance and music. Gorgeously designed costumes.
Cons: Well, there’s lots of noise on stage, don’t come if you like a quiet night out.
Hands up those of you brave enough to stage anything on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Now, try and do this as a golden-clad Drag Queen and start throwing political references every other line, naming and shaming persecutors of either side through one thousand years of conflict. Finally, surround yourself with scantily-clad ballerinas and make them all move at the sound of live military-pop-music for 90 sweaty minutes. As If!
Yet director, writer and main performer Nir Paldi (Star/Israel) seemed very comfortable in staging precisely that. This is the near-autobiographical story of Israel, the peace-dreaming boy who ends up a murderous soldier, but it might as well be that of Israel’s people and its many torn souls. It starts with a terror alert at the sound of live music by aptly named Camp David (Pete Aves), as Star picks at the audience with calculated fearlessness. And as the 5 Starlets appear in their cleverly designed pansexual-military costumes, there will be no coming back from a whirlpool of personal drama and political-historical references, all delivered with an addictive mix of high-energy mock military dance and synchronised mime.
Bossed about yet lovingly nurtured by Star, the 5 Starlets are an absolute joy to watch and follow around. The delivery is flawless and so powerful that the 7 on stage seem to become just one gigantic living being. A succession of characters seems to appear from nowhere, to include the entirety of the Israeli-Palestinian universe. Somehow, such diverse and intensely emotional matters are kept in perfect balance by Star and the dancers. As the story unfolds through modern Israel’s history, bus bombs, check points, occupied territories and political assassinations, everything turns vividly personal. Inevitably, victims become perpetrators and no-one is ever really right or wrong. Most surprisingly, the show’s farcical humour reaches where no politician will ever manage, exposing the gruesomeness of this endless conflict in its bare absurdity.
This is explosive material, quite literally. Nir Paldi and the whole Ad Infinitum cast have brought theatre back to its revolutionary social roots, showing an increasingly stunned audience just how a piece of daringly written and movingly executed physical theatre can be more powerful than any Army weaponry. A masterpiece.
Written and performed by: Nir Paldi
Producer: George Mann and Becki Haynes
Costumes: Serena Montesissa
Choreography: Orian Michaeli
Music: Adam Pleeth and Pete Aves
Booking Until: 8th March 2014
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/ballad