Thursday, July 13, 2023

Speaking the Trouf to power

I forgot to record here that I went to see Hannah Khalil's Trouf: Scenes from 75* Years last Thursday.

A living, growing record of life in Palestine, life beyond the headlines, life under occupation.

Trouf: Scenes from 75* Years is an evolutionary play.

A man sunbathes in the shadow of a tank; another desperately tries to buy an onion before curfew. A musician returns to his childhood home, and the queues reverberate to the rhythm of Hedi Jouini and Um Khultoum.

Trouf: Scenes from 75* Years explores another side to life in Palestine, and Tunisia, the stories you don’t see on the news, gathered and discovered by playwright Hannah Khalil from family and the diasporic community alike. Threaded together, these scenes give voice to over 30 characters, in settings from 1948 up to the present day, all asking the question ‘what is it like to live under occupation, or in post-revolution turmoil, where space is always contested?’

The play began life as Scenes from 68* Years at the Arcola Theatre in 2016, to critical acclaim and sold out audiences. Khalil’s text has since evolved through a series of collaborations with Tunisian artists to create a freshly minted text for this UK premiere. 

I was very moved by it, and by two scenes in particular: one in which the girl tricks and teases her grandfather by pretending they can return to the family home, and one in which a Jewish woman does her best to be polite to Palestinian visitors to the house, which used to be theirs, where she now lives. My jaw was on the floor when she offered them one tile left over from redoing their old kitchen. From one perspective both these parables could seem almost cruel, but their domestic settings humanised all the players.

Steve and Rebecca had to go before the Q&A, but I stayed. Getting the thing on at all with recasting and rewrites on Tuesday seemed miraculous. (Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland might have been able to do it in an 'Andy Hardy' movie but no one else could.)

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