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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Finborough Theatre Spring 2013

An intense psychological drama, a meticulous police procedural, a history lesson, and a debate encompassing key aspects of the Israel-Palestine conundrum Canadian playwright Arthur Milner fits all these into a high-energy ninety minutes. And a sensitive director and a cast who hold nothing back capture all the play's power in a flawless production. 

We are in (choose the label you find most acceptable) the West Bank/Occupied Territories/Israel/Palestine. An Israeli and a Palestinian detective are warily cooperating in a murder investigation. 

The victim was an American archaeologist whose work argued that there is no physical evidence to support the Bible's account of history no Solomon, no David, no kingdom of Israel, indeed no Moses, no Exodus, no promised land and thus implicitly denied the legitimacy of modern Israel. The chief suspect is a West Bank settler, Zionist zealot and biblical fundamentalist. 

And so the three men spar in various permutations. The two cops respect each other but aren't particularly friendly, and recognise that they have different agendas. 

The Palestinian is the more methodical, focussing on evidence that can place the suspect on the spot and whittle away at his alibi. The Israeli is more inclined to go with his gut and to play Bad Cop, pressing the suspect's hot buttons to push him to let something slip. 

And the suspect has the absolute confidence that comes from knowing they can't prove anything and believing that if he did do it he would be divinely justified. 

And so a lot of areas of political/moral contention are voiced, from various positions, making the play at the very least thought-provoking and stimulating. But what makes it intensely theatrical is that we are never quite sure how honestly and openly each of the men is behaving. 

The detectives, after all, are using standard Good Cop - Bad Cop techniques, so both the Palestinian's calm and the Israeli's rage could be play-acting, even though the one frequently seems to be straining to hold himself in check and the other repeatedly seems to lose control over his anger. 

And meanwhile the suspect is clearly enjoying what he sees as his untouchability and the opportunity to irritate the others with his ideas, and may well be exaggerating his positions just for the fun of it. 

Whatever else is going on, the Palestinian is not happy to have either of these men in his country, the somewhat secular Israeli cop is annoyed to have his colleague not fully on his side and enraged to have the suspect question his Judaism, and the suspect disdains both the others as infidels. 

Director Caitlin McLeod is to be applauded for seeing all these layers and subtleties and for guiding her actors toward a presentation pitched exactly to the intimate space of the Finborough, and it is impossible to rank the multifaceted, uninhibited and equally excellent performances of Philip Arditti (Palestinian), Michael Feast (Israeli) and Paul Rattray (suspect).

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Facts - Finborough Theatre 2013 

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