“Beep. Beep. Beep. This is the Voice of Jerusalem.”
An Israeli Love Story is the deceptively simple title of this play which, on the face of it, is about the passion of Margalit, a young woman, for her paramour Ami in 1940s Israel. Written, directed and often attended by octogenarian Pnina Gary and based on the her own story during that period, this play is Ms Gary’s love letter both to her then-fiancé and to the state in which she grew up.
The play is a one-woman show with all the roles played by Adi Bielski (pictured), an actress who has come to London from Jerusalem via a stint as an officer in the Israeli Defence Force. While the central love story is, for the most part, slight, Ms Bielski is a delight to watch throughout the hour-long show. Her energetic acting and expressive features mean that this production is shorn of the dead air normally associated with monodramas. As a physical actress, she dominates the stage of Hampstead’s intimate New End Theatre, making us believe that a simple low table is also a podium, a seat on a bus, a bed and a motorcycle. Her empathy for the role shines through every scene and brings Ms Gary’s story alive as Ms Bielski portrays a double-figure cast of characters including Margalit’s parents, Ami and his friends plus Margalit herself as she grows from a nervous 16-year-old into a more assured twenty-something.
The play also provides intelligent insights into the Israeli state at the personal level, contrasting kibbutz leader Ami’s strong egalitarian views with Margalit’s proprietary ones, and at the national level as the Israeli-Arab War of 1948 commences. This play exercises the mind as well as the heart and is well worth a trek up the Northern Line.
An Israeli Love Story runs until 6 June at the New End Theatre, Hampstead. Book tickets here.
By Franco Milazzo