Za'tar - The Plot

The play is structured around the parallel lives of two families, whose members experience numerous difficulties and suspicions, and are interviewed by a very young, inexperienced Italian theatre director.

The stage is divided into two sections, first by theatre lighting, which isolates the sections of the stage, then by an increasing addition of large, rectangular blocks. These end up by suffocating, hiding and burying the space "inhabited" by the Palestinian family, and that of the Israeli family, increasing the sense of claustrophobia and violence, in a Becket-like tragic process of self-segregation, that is only partly conscious.

Thus, the Occupation of the space provides the invasive background to the events involving the various characters: an officer in the Israeli army, who suffers an increasing crisis over the violence and military actions carried out by his group of soldiers; his brother, an intransigent and sectarian settler, who lives in the area of Hebron; and the officer's wife, a university lecturer, who represents the dissident, critical opinion of the occupation.

In obvious contrast, we see the destinies of the "occupied" Palestinian family, a Palestinian shopkeeper, and her 14-year-old son, who, unknown to his mother, has enrolled for a suicide mission, and a family friend with connections to a number of brigades of Arab combatants.
The destinies of the two Palestinian women become tragically divided, in the contrast between the mother's desire to resist the Occupation in a non-violent way, and her friend's ferocious, cynical determination to use any means.

As a backdrop to the human destinies of the main characters, there is also the difficult relationship of knowledge and comprehension between the western world, represented by the Italian director, who tries to escape the clichés of ideologies and media systems, and the Arab world, portrayed also by an official of Hamas, who is struggling with the problems of unresolved conflicts within the Arab and Palestinian world itself.

Comment of the plot

"The theatrical experience was a difficult one. Of course, it's always greatly satisfying to see a work based on your accounts, and to play a small part in it. On this occasion, I played the part of a Spokesman for Hamas. This wasn't the first time I had put myself in the shoes of someone that many would call 'evil'. I had a short, dark beard, a brown leather jacket, black trousers and a Palestinian scarf, and held in my right hand a Subha, the Muslim "rosary beads", and on my forehead could be seen the hardened skin typical of a worshipper who regularly kneels down. At the end of the first performance of the play, in Varese, Italy, we gave the audience some time to ask questions and comment on what they had seen. One man, who had clearly been struck by the suggestive power of my costume, accused me of supporting the terrorists (which is far from my actual position). This episode was an extraordinary indication of the power of suggestion, which demonstrates how difficult it is to face images and go beyond appearances; we need only multiply this episode by ten thousand to understand the power of media broadcasting. Even the simulation of an Israeli checkpoint, with armed soldiers, at the entrance to the theatre embarrassed several members of the audience, and while some smilingly agreed to being searched, others refused, shocked at having to show their documents (NB: in Palestine, if you fail to present the right documents, you won't be allowed through the checkpoint). Identification, a continuous process of identification is an important key to understanding and trying to find a way out of a conflict like this one, at least in literature and the arts. Think of these young Italian actors, wearing a hijāb, the veil worn by women, or a tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl, think of what it takes to identify with another culture and with another socio-political context. Well, if I manage to make one of my readers do this, I will be able to say the book I've written is a good one. One of the main characters in the play was a young theatre director, who interviewed Palestinians and Israelis, recording the mixed emotions of nationalistic patriotism and human compassion, of anger and forgiveness, amid the frustrating impact of injustices and the enlightening energy of the struggle against them, and who was getting ready to produce a play about them. Although the character was fictional, her experiences were the actual experiences of the play's director, Daniele Brajuka, and before him, of me, the author of the book. It was a way of portraying the continual asking of questions and trying to understand. The play confirmed what I had learnt during those months in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and brought up new questions on topics such as peace and justice, identity and humanity … It is so difficult to internalise and overlook the injustice, because no diplomatic speech or strategic interest can delete it. The Palestinians are the truest expression of the injustice, and while it is the Palestinians who are suffering the most terrible consequences of a policy of colonial expansion and racial segregation, wanted by the Israeli establishment, the Israelis that don't want to know about it, are victims of their system, and their voice is crushed within Israel and ignored or removed in the Arab countries in the region."

G. Solera


Technical details

  • stage space: 6m x 4m (minimum)
  • 8 actors
  • 5/6 walk-on players, for choreographic movements; these players will already be part of the cast in the performances in areas close to the theatre company's headquarters. Outside Lombardy, and abroad, the walk-on players can be selected from the local area and included in the play, after appropriate preparation on the days immediately before the performance.
  • 10 1000W projectors
  • 5 PAR lights
  • a sound mixer and lights
  • 1 handheld microphone
  • a smoke machine
  • stage battens or side stands


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