Reviews from the 2oo8 Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Edinburgh Reviews by Lee Levitt
Finding comedy in Mid-East conflict
THE ARAB, THE JEW AND THE CHICKEN
C Central, Carlton Hotel
THIS SKETCH show rips along at a frenetic pace as it pokes fun at the craziness of the Middle East conflict – and the crazies who are part of it. Conflict relief, a London-based Arab and Israeli theatre collaboration, may not have any answers to the region’s problems, but their original, jointly scripted, surreal show suggests humour could be a useful tool. From the zaniness of the Land Factor TV programme to the silliness of the hummus test in the passport control sketch, Palestinian Nour Alkawaja, Israeli Ofer Yatziv, Lebanese-American Jana Zenadeen and Bournemouth Jew Rebecca Gross sizzle together. And that’s without the chicken.
What’s On reviews
The Arab, the Jew and The Chicken
by Katie Jackson
It is an often stated fact that comedy requires great intelligence and skill despite its apparently goofy, veneer, but The Arab, The Jew and The Chicken is savvier than most sketch theatre. There are no down points in this cleverly constructed, wonderfully varied and brilliantly acted short sketch show which claims to be a fast and feisty exploration of the Middle East conflict. And there is a life size chicken thrown in for good measure too.
Conflict Relief takes its audience on a quick and irreverent exploration of the ludicrous hypothetical conflicts behind the conflict of a generation. The Gaza Strip may not be an ideal setting for light hearted comedy and farce, but Conflict Relief stares the tedium of insults and violence in the face and comes out victorious.
Ending with a utopic vision of peace and love, this talented band of artists know exactly how to handle an audience. Not so cocky that they would ask a small fringe audience to step out of their comfort zone and participate, they manage to get the crowd on side and involved without terrifying the life out of them.
It’s a pleasant journey through a laugh out loud comedy sketch show. Jana Zenadeen is to be particularly credited for her quick wit and comic timing, although this really is a production with no weak links.
This production doesn’t provide any answers, but it doesn’t ask any questions either. It is content to thoroughly entertain with its unique and quirky sense of humour. This is good theatre. This is great comedy.
The British Theatre Guide
The Arab, the Jew and the Chicken
By Conflict Relief Courtyard Theatre Review by Rivka Jacobson (March 2008)
An Arab, a Jew and a chicken marinated with absurd images and laced with ridiculous conversations served by a talented group of five actors guarantee an entertaining evening.
The fifteen sketches gravitate towards a central theme of the absurdity of socio-political conflicts. The group use mime, clowning, exaggerated gestures and singing to reduce these conflicts to a pathetic, yet sobering, reality.
Each of the five actors comes from a different background; Jana Zenadeen a Lebanese-American, Ofer Yatziv an Israeli, Nour Alkawaja a Palestinian-Canadian, Rebecca Gross who is English-Jewish and Adam Elabadaly, an Irish-Libyan. This diversity translates comfortably into an almost even-handed mockery of all parties of the different conflicts. They highlight in a droll manner how much those parties have in common and the extent to which their differences are based on long-standing prejudices.
The prelude sketch is on an imaginative "Loveboat" hosted by sexy Roberta (Zenadeen). She introduces her guests with exaggerated charm, a Rabbi (Yatziv) and a Sheikh (Alkawaja). When it comes to peace, an attempt is made to cool the heated confrontation. Roberta asked the panel members their views on Britney Spears. Well, on this subject the opposing parties disagree but there are signs of some common ground.
The group does not shy away from having a scene where Hebrew and Arabic are the sole languages used. The two characters' inability to understand each other is shared by an audience that can understand neither. It is a poignant feature underlining the misunderstanding between Arab and Israeli that can prove fatal.
The current popular TV programme, the X-Factor, was the inspiration for the "Land-Factor" sketch, which uses a song competition to win land. The contestants come out with illogical responses, emphasising the absurdity of the struggle over land. In the "Teacher" sketch, children gather in London to learn about peace and harmony, but the sad reality is that they arrive brainwashed and parrot the well-furrowed clichés that perpetuate the antagonism. In the "Mediation" scene, the peace talks are hijacked by a sexual liaison that develops between the Israeli and Palestinian delegates, but the outcome is no different from the political reality and likewise ends in mutual recrimination
All in all The Arab, the Jew and the Chicken provides a highly entertaining evening by stripping the Middle East conflict to the bare bones. This production is a promising start for the Conflict Relief Theatre Group, who write, direct and perform with considerable verve.
The Arab, The
Jew and The Chicken
By Bruce Dessau, Evening Standard
Typical. You wait ages for a comedy about the Arab/Israeli conflict then two come along. After mime duo Gecko’s dark physical humour, international quintet Conflict Relief offers a more accessible approach, with satirical sketches highlighting the absurdity of two cultures clashing despite having so much in common.
Best is Elabdaly’s travel agent, offering tourists sights including “historical ruins created last week.” TV spoofs such as Land Factor virtually write themselves, yet there is potential here, with confident performances.
This ensemble clearly knows their Hammas from their hummous without taking sides. As sassy chat show host Roberta (Jana Zenadeen) asks: “The Middle East. Whodunnit?” Conflict Relief never answers her question but unearths plenty of laughs.