Taha

Taha
By Amer Hlehel. Directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi. Adelaide Festival. Space Theatre. 15-18 March, 2018.

Though this solo performance may, at first glance, appear to be a tale of autobiography by its performer – such is the passion and personal touch with which Amer Hlehel presents it – Taha is, in fact, a spirited, richly textured telling of selected experiences from the life of Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali (1931-2011).

Drawing its inspiration from Adina Hoffman’s biographical book My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, as well as directly from the poet’s own works, Hlehel’s text – translated by director Amir Nizar Zuabi - mostly strikes just the right tone to communicate this story to appreciative worldwide audiences: that of a big-hearted, good-humoured, warm-natured artist, wanting his family to be able to live in peace, and striving so that they may someday be proud of his achievements.

With a smart blend of universal emotional detail and insightful cultural specificity, Hlehel manages - utilising only a minimalist-but-striking stage square designed by Ashraf Hanna, and assisted greatly by Muaz Jubeh’s subtly effective lighting - to take us into a world far removed in many ways from that of most Adelaide audience members; a place that may be scarred by conflict and tragedy, but also - as the words of Taha Muhammad Ali demonstrate - where love, optimism, and humanity survive and flourish in any way, big or small, that they possibly can.

Anthony Vawser

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