|I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You|
|Published on Tuesday, 07 August 2012|
Given that you’ve chosen to read this review, I will place a friendly wager that you’re not the most easily-offended person in Edinburgh this August? I say this because the show’s provocative title offers reasonable warning as to the approach Jennifer Jajeh has taken towards a divisive political subject. The accompanying promotional posters further allude to its tone – so I suggest that if these have mustered your intrigue and you have made it this far, you need read no further. Book yourself a ticket immediately.
I Heart Hamas… is a fantastic and important piece of theatre, that received gasps and tears from our audience and a standing ovation the previous night. Jajeh set herself a huge challenge with the decision to write, perform and self-fund this frequently-comic eighty-minute exploration of her identity as a Christian Palestinian-American. To say that she succeeds is an understatement. This particular journey is of more interest than most, as she candidly recounts tales, memories and horrors from her life growing up in the US – followed by a period living in her parents’ hometown of Ramallah, Palestine.
Describing the show as “tragicomic”, Jajeh skilfully turns some inherently-loaded subject matter into a delightfully palatable show. Deftly leaping around between characters and continents, the pace is constant and the energy high. Her brilliant multi-role acting is interwoven with amusing visual aids and cleverly placed sound bites. You will laugh out loud, as stereotypes are unravelled and challenged with games such as “Ask a Palestinian” and a new version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire”.
The show touches upon childhood memories of her Christian upbringing, family life, work-life experiences, relationships, Jewish cats and beyond. The really enlightening part of the show comes when Jajeh moves to her ancestral hometown to further explore her Palestinian heritage. She arrives at the start of the second Intifada; a dangerous time, which maybe proves to be the necessarily-stark reminder of how very different this woman’s life could have been. As Jajeh confronts the uncomfortable and often unspeakable notion of radicalism, she does so using a uniquely frank, female and ultimately human perspective.
It is at this point that my one reservation about the show surfaces. In explaining her seismic opinion shift towards the radical activities surrounding her, existing stereotypes of the opposition are reinforced. When one of the main purposes of the show is to erode singular thinking, I find it difficult to accept any given stereotype over another. This is a minor grievance, though: the humour is caustic throughout, and this particular example is a witty observation lifted from her own experience that further evidences her views concerning the limits of human endurance.
Ultimately, while I Heart Hamas has not necessarily furthered my knowledge of the political situation in the Middle East, it has certainly provided a valuable insight into the challenges faced by one fascinating and brave young woman.
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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012. We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.