The Revolutionary Power of Palestinian Theater

Isabella Hammad in Literary Hub:

One Friday night in October 2018, during the inaugural Palestinian Theatre Festival in Ramallah, I watched The Freedom Theatre from Jenin refugee camp perform a play called Return to Palestine. In this tightly choreographed 45-minute piece of physical comedy, a young Palestinian-American named Jad travels back to Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank, to visit his family for the first time. The black-clad ensemble of six forms a line that transforms fluidly into a car, a checkpoint, the entrance to the refugee camp, a café, accompanied by an oud, spoons and drums played by musicians sitting stage-right.

The first lesson Jad learns about life under military occupation is one of mobility: at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv he phones his uncle, who explains that, as a West Bank Palestinian, he can’t collect Jad from the airport. He doesn’t have a permit. Jad must take a taxi alone to the checkpoint. The audience starts laughing and the laughter crescendoes when, on Jad’s eventual arrival in Jenin, his uncle pretends to be furious. You are late! he bellows. You think you are in Europe? Here, we are Arabs! We respect time! Jad cowers, then realizes his uncle is making fun. They embrace; the audience whistles.

More here.