Ali and Dahlia review at Pleasance Theatre, London – ‘a promising debut play’
Actor-turned-playwright Tariq Jordan delivers a fresh take on a familiar story with his debut play.
Set in the West Bank, Ali and Dahlia tells the story of Ali, a Palestinian Muslim who has been arrested for rioting and ends up being held in an Israeli detention centre until his trial. The defence lawyer assigned to his case turns out to be his childhood sweetheart Dahlia. But, despite their intimate history, the pair struggle to reconcile their political differences.
Drawing on his own mixed Jewish and Muslim heritage, Jordan’s ambitious play takes the form of a complicated love story, told largely through a series of flashbacks. These are used to shed some light on the bigger picture of Palestinian-Israeli relations, as the two children attempt to forge a relationship across a tempestuous political divide.
Jordan offsets the conflict and politics with a nice line in gentle humour, as the young Ali and Dahlia become closer. Though Waj Ali and Deli Segal bring natural warmth and humanity to the roles of Ali and Dahlia, the play feels in need of greater development. In its current one-act form, the storytelling feels constricted. The character of Dahlia’s brother, Asher, played by Kai Spellman, suffers particularly in this regard and the play loses momentum before it reaches its unexpected – but satisfying – conclusion.
Jordan includes a potted history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the form of a prologue, which lighting and AV designer Will Monks projects on the walls of the performance space. Director Kerry Kyriacos Michael creates a sense of intimacy and his production brings the best out of Jordan’s writing, ensuring the flashbacks don’t break the rhythm of the story, and capturing the urgency of this promising debut play.
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