Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review - Arafat In Therapy

Jeremie Bracka's one man show "Arafat in Therapy" was released last year, but he is now taking it on a return season, with a tour through Australia, New Zealand and Israel.  If, like me, you missed it the first time, this is a great opportunity to catch up.  This is Jeremie's third one man play, his two previous being "Lox, Shmocks and Two Smoking Salmons" (2005-06), and "Enough about me... Let's talk about Jew" (2007-08).

Unlike the suggestion of the title, this is not a fictitious story about Arafat, but actually the story of Jeremie himself.  Jeremie is a Jewish boy that grew up in Caulfield that worked for Israel's Permanent Mission to the United Nations, and as a project manager for Ambassador Uri Tavir (Israel's Chief negotiator at Oslo).  As part of the experience he witnesses that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples are "joined at the hip", but unable to even talk to each other without fighting.  He has a dream that Arafat, and later Shimon Peres are in "couples counselling".

Any viewers expecting this to be a totally one-sided lampooning of political views will be disappointed.  Nobody is safe from Jeremie's sharp wit and brilliant imitations.  He starts with his own family - his Polish Mother and Jewish Egyptian Father, and then branches out to his aunts and uncles.  This generated a lot of empathy with the audience at our performance in Melbourne many of whom related quite easily to these characters.  He then turned on his Grade two teacher, Mora Tzipi "It is because of you not dancing the Hora that I can tell that you hate Israel", El Al and their uninterested security staff, and then his employer Tavir.  Along the way he tells how rebellious it was that a Jewish Boy from Mt Scopus "rebelled" by going to Morocco for three months to study Arabic.  Here we here he's never been to Melbourne's Western Suburbs, let along the West Bank, and that to him, Doncaster (a Jewish community in Melbourne's North) are the settlements.

Whilst working for Tavir, he needs to visit two people in the West Bank weekly, and Arab and a Jew.  He impersonates both in turn, and can't help notice that instead of just talking to him, its like they are talking to each other.  They both have more in common with each other than they realise.

During the play, there is a video interlude, which shows a "news" segment, with all characters on screen played by Jeremie.  Here he gives some hilarious lampooning of Shimon Peres and Saeb Erekat being interviewed by a news reporter.  There is also a brilliant segment "Socialites without Borders", where a South African lady runs a "humanitarian organisation" for Palestinians.  "I Coorn't bolieve it, the Israelis stopped me at the border and were so rough.  I mean, they asked me if I packed my own bags.  I WOULD NEVER pack my own bags!".

He then continues with the live performance, and this time lampoons the UN.  The Ghanan delegation want to insert an anti-Israel clause into a completely unrelated resolution, and we get to see how crazy the inner workings of the UN are, with lampoons of delegations from around the world, including Ireland, Italy, Russia, Japan, and the delegations of Canada, Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), which hilariously Tavir can't pronounce.

It then returns to the West Bank, where a Suicide Bomber has blown himself up, and everything changes.

This is a brilliant play.  Not everybody will relate to all the characters, especially the Melbourne representation, but anybody will easily understand the messages and jokes Jeremie is putting across.  Nothing is sacred and no stone is left unturned.  Highly Recommended!

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