Sunday, January 24, 2010

I am Yusuf and This is My Brother

Friday was a very intense but inspiring day. During the morning, David Furlong from Exchange Theatre came to the office, and we talked about Mauritius. David first got on touch some years ago in response to the presence of Toufann on our website - he's a Mauritian actor, and there aren't exactly a lot of companies with links to the island! He's just been back - which we haven't done for about six years - and he's enthusiastic about the creativity there. That excites me for the planned trip later in the year.

Work with Gabrielle from Polygon on an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, looking at a Participation and Learning programme around the Trilogy; and with Paul on possible approaches to some core costs. The latter have become very crucial as the company grows, with the board working hard on strategies for expansion and the arrival of Paul and Gabrielle in the office. Change management seems to be what excites funders of core costs, and we have some quite productive phone calls. Paul goes off to draft an application.

I head down to the Young Vic, and grab some Chinese dumplings in the nearby restaurant before the show. A former student, Lucy, is sitting there, and in the absence of spare tables I ask if I can sit with her. She introduces her friend, who turns out to be the director Di Trevis - I've never met her before, but have admired her work for years (I remember her Arturo Ui at the National with Antony Sher with particular relish). These days, she's largely based in New York, with an emphasis on teaching.

The play is a production from Palestine, by a company called ShiberHur, which means "an inch of freedom" in Arabic. It's written and directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi, who did the wonderful Alive from Palestine in the same venue. This piece, I am Yusuf and This is My Brother, is about 1948, and the way its ghosts are still shaping Palestinian lives. It swaps between English and Arabic (often for no apparent reason), and, in performance, felt just a little dull and worthy. So I was surprised, as I read the programme-script on the train coming home, at just what a brilliant piece of writing it is. Somehow, the production has directed the poetry out of the play. There's little sense of the mystery, of the presence of the dead, of music and rhythm. But the play is quite wonderful.

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