Josh Azouz’s plays tread a dangerous line between comedy and offensiveness, sometimes straying too far into wrong territory.
It is set in Tunisia, 1943, shortly after Nazis take over the Vichy government. The story tells the tale of two young lovers — one Jewish and one Muslim — who were friends for many years before the invasion changed their social geography.
It opens in Beckett’s Happy Days with Victor (Pierro Niel-Mee), a Jew (Pierro Nel-Mee), buried to the neck in the desert and guarded in turn by Youssef (Ethan Kai), who has joined the Nazis.
The play reveals the domestic and political tensions as it unfolds. It becomes apparent that Azouz uses betrayal as a way to echo larger issues such as collaboration, identity, and homeland.
Even if the argument takes a wrong turn occasionally, it can be saved from complete desiccation with the performances of Adrian Edmondson, the Nazi commandant. He is affectionately known as ‘Grandma’ by his men because he loves knitting.
Edmondson, who is stumbling around on a walking stick because of a knee injury to his knee, is absurdly sinister. He has plans for Victor’s spirit wife Loys (Yasmin Paige) and exploits his fascistic power over life and death for his lecherous ends.
This set is made up of plywood boxes, which open to reveal beautiful tiled interiors. An electric sun shines from the top.
The play, which Azouz is attempting to merge several different ideas, does not succeed in skirmishing alongside Absurdist theater. It’s an ambitious attempt to solve a common problem in the context of a lesser-known aspect of historical history.
Failible, but still fascinating
Almeida Theatre, September 18th, tickets: 020 73559 440
Publiated at Thu, 2 Sep 2021 23.01:00 +0000