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‘Two Palestinians Go Dogging’ review

  • Theatre, Drama
  • 2 out of 5 stars
Two Palestinians Go Dogging, Royal Court, 2022
Photo by Ali WrightHala Omran
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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Absurdist comedy about a Palestinian couple who just want to go dogging – but unfortunately that’s not how life in Palestine plays out

That it’s difficult to write anything constructive or original about the Israel-Palestine conflict is pretty much the starting point for Sami Ibrahim’s tortured comedy, which finds itself caught between sincerity, satire and abject self-consciousness.

The title alludes to a Palestinian husband and wife: crafty, fiery, somewhat egotistical Reem (Hala Omran) and affable, bumbling Sayeed (Miltos Yerolemou) do indeed love to go dogging (if you don’t know what it is, look it up somewhere private) on a patch of contested land near Jerusalem. Oh, it’s also the year 2043, and a zombified Benjamin Netanyahu is in charge of Israel (again).

It’s a strange play, that sort of sets itself up to be an iconoclastic alternative to standard serious narratives about Palestine, but ultimately comes across as pretty much that that, but with a lot of tangents, window dressing and moments of self-consciousness thrown in (it both starts and ends with characters reading out a note from the writer in which he tries to explain himself to the audience). 

Formally Omar Elerian’s production is full of mischief, from the dogging and the future setting to the many short ‘chapters’ it’s broken down into that are announced by the cast each time, and the liberal fourth wall breaking.

But really the heart of it lies in an exploration of the killing of Israeli soldier Sara by Reem and Sayeed’s son Jawad (Luca Kamleh Chapman) - its consequences, his reasons, and the potential resolution that’s offered by Sara’s terminally reasonable father Adam (Philipp Mogilnitskiy), who just wants to talk to Reem about it (much to Reem’s alarm). 

I thought this bit in isolation made for a pretty solid play. But I have to say the intermingling with the jokier stuff never really worked for me.  The humour, while virtually omnipresent, always feels forced, or at least, extra to the narrative. Bits like a pisstake of well-meaning Westerners taking up the Palestinian cause, or a section when Jawad accidentally becomes a TikTok sensation are funny. But I’m not sure they add anything important except runtime. 

If it lost an hour and either ditched the absurdist humour or embraced it more wholeheartedly I think you might have something really great. As it is, ‘Two Palestinians Go Dogging’ feels like a lengthy brainstorming session on how to write a great original play about Palestine, rather than a great original play about Palestine.

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski

Details

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Price:
£15-£25. Runs 2hr 50min
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